Allianz FL D1: Donegal edge out Armagh
Allianz Football League Division One
Donegal 1-14 Armagh 1-13
By Alan Foley at O'Donnell Park
Donegal avoided the relegation complexities in Division One of the Allianz League with Patrick McBrearty kicking a dramatic 75th winner against Armagh in Letterkenny.
With Declan Bonner’s side looking as comfortable as possible in the circumstances six points to the good both before and after half-time, Armagh soon reeled back their arrears. Rian O’Neill came off the bench to kick three points with Aidan Nugent posting 1-6 for the visitors.
With Kieran McGeeney’s side one of only three in the top flight completely safe - Mayo and Kerry the others - before the final day’s fixtures got started and making a trip to Ballybofey in four weeks time in the Ulster SFC quarter-final, there was a feel of summertime.
Live updates all afternoon showed the current state of the dropzone, although they were shared between Monaghan, Tyrone, Dublin and Kildare. Donegal were, by and large, away from that muddle, but when Michael Murphy missed a penalty and O’Neill got Armagh level for the first time since the fifth minute in the 72nd, there were a few fretting in green and gold.
Donegal steadied and worked space for Ethan O’Donnell, to lay off to McBrearty to win it. Afterwards, with the adrenaline still pumping, there was a melee with both panels involved.
Knowing what they needed, Donegal, who had to show a much stronger hand than Armagh, set about their business from the get-go. When Jason McGee hammered home an 11th minute goal following approach play by Ryan McHugh and Jamie Brennan, the home side were 1-4 to 0-2 in front without a wide having been kicked.
An Armagh goal from Nugent two minutes before half-time was, from a Donegal perspective, avoidable, with Shaun Patton opting to punch a dropping ball by Jemar Hall . And although the goalkeeper got a good connection, a Ben Crealey fetch was worked from Tiernan Kelly to Nugent. It means Armagh were within five at the break, 1-10 to 1-5 down.
Donegal pushed their lead out to six with 40 minutes played, 1-12 to 1-6, only to see Armagh push through the gears. O’Neill, Nugent and Andrew Murnin chipped into the lead and with the hosts going 20 minutes with no score, Murphy pulled a corner wide after Jamie Brennan had been fouled.
Connaire Mackin, at the other end, drilled a shot at goal just wide and the 5,650 crowd were in something of a state of excitement. Armagh, with a huge support, were getting more and more vociferous and they got level late on, McBrearty had the final say
Scorers for Donegal: Jamie Brennan (0-2, 1m), Michael Murphy (0-4, 1f, 45), Patrick McBrearty (0-7, 4f, 1m), Jason McGee (1-0), Caolan Ward (0-1)
Scorers for Armagh: Aidan Nugent (1-6, 3f), Rian O’Neill (0-3, 45), Jason Duffy (0-1, 1m), Andrew Murnin (0-2, 1m), Tiernan Kelly (0-1).
DONEGAL: Shaun Patton; Caolan Ward, Brendan McCole, Stephen McMenamin; Peadar Mogan, Eoghan Bán Gallagher, Odhrán McFadden Ferry; Jason McGee, Hugh McFadden; Shane O'Donnell, Ryan McHugh, Conor O'Donnell; Patrick McBrearty, Michael Murphy, Jamie Brennan.
Subs: Michael Langan for Brennan (51), Niall O’Donnell for McHugh (63), Ethan O’Donnell for S O’Donnell (70+3).
ARMAGH: Ethan Rafferty; Aaron McKay, Aidan Forker, James Morgan; Ciaran Mackin, Greg McCabe, Jarlath Óg Burns; Stefan Campbell, Ben Crealey; Conor O'Neill, Jemar Hall, Tiernan Kelly; Aidan Nugent, Andrew Murnin, Jason Duffy.
Subs: Connaire Mackin for Morgan (16), Rian O’Neill and Conor Grugan for Hall and C O’Neill (half-time), Cian McConville for Campbell (52), Niall Grimley for Kelly (66), Justin Kieran for Duffy (70).
REFEREE: Paddy Neilan (Roscommon).