Michael Murphy was the difference and the inspiration all at once as Donegal got back to winning ways.
Donegal 1-9 Armagh 0-11
By Chris McNulty at Sean MacCumhaill Park. Photos by Evan Logan
Murphy hit 1-2 after being brought on as a sub late in the first half for a first appearance of the year.
A minute into added time at the end of the first half, Murphy got on the end of a tidy Donegal move to tuck into the bottom corner for the game’s only goal.
Ryan McHugh, Eoghan Ban Gallagher, Hugh McFadden and Michael Langan were all involved to work the ball into Murphy, who made no mistake with a clinical finish.
Initially kept in reserve, Donegal sent for their talisman in the 28th minute and it proved the winning of the game.
With the game delicately poised, Murphy landed two huge scores to open up a four-point lead.
Rian O’Neill inched Armagh right back and there were gasps of relief all around when Armagh sub Ethan Rafferty riffled over the top with a free. Rafferty went for goal, but his effort was too high – and Donegal’s promotion bid was back on track.
It had been a chaotic beginning to the night, with Donegal’s Jason McGee and James Morgan sent off following a clash in the 18th minute.
Referee Martin McNally was losing both his bearing and control of the game in the one go and, briefly, things were getting out of hand with the official struggling to keep a hold. In all, McNally dished out 11 cards – including eleven yellows to Armagh.
Murphy’s fellow 2012 All-Ireland winner Leo McLoone made his first start of 2019 while Shaun Patton took over from Mark Anthony McGinley as Declan Bonner continued the rotation of his goalkeepers.
McLoone had a big influence on things, too, but it was Murphy who made the difference.
The conditions made things a lottery at times, but Murphy’s calm hands were crucial as Donegal ground out a win that stopped the rot after defeats to Tipperary and Fermanagh.
Niall Grimley – who could count himself fortunate to be on the field following an early incident involving Donegal’s Eoghan Ban Gallagher – hoofed over two monster points to give Armagh the advantage around the half-hour mark.
Donegal struggled with the elements early on, but Michael Langan steadied them somewhat with a 10th minute free.
A replica from Langan drew Donegal level after Jamie Clarke and Rian O’Neill gave the visitors the edge.
Armagh arrived in Ballybofey having claimed their maiden League win of the year last week against Tipperary and the inclusion of Ryan McShane was the only alteration shown by the Orchard from that 1-15 to 0-12 win.
Armagh wouldn’t let Donegal – who led 1-4 to 0-6 at half-time – out of sight in the second half.
Ciaran Thompson and Langan (2) added points for Donegal, but Rian O’Neill and Grimley kept Armagh – whose manager Kieran McGeeney watched from a rather perilous perch on the roof of the press box, as he serves a touchline ban – in touch.
Donegal: Shaun Patton; Stephen McMenamin, Brendan McCole, Caolan Ward; Ryan McHugh, Leo McLoone, Eoghan Ban Gallagher; Hugh McFadden, Caolan McGonagle; Ciaran Thompson (0-1f), Jason McGee, Michael Langan (0-5f); Jamie Brennan, Oisin Gallen, Niall O’Donnell (0-1). Subs: Michael Murphy (1-2) for Gallen (28), Eoin McHugh for Thompson (47), Paul Brennan for McMenamin (55).
Armagh: Blaine Hughes; James Morgan, Aaron McKay, Ryan McShane; Connaire Mackin, Greg McCabe, Paul Hughes; Stephen Sheridan, Niall Grimley (0-3f); Jemar Hall, Rory Grugan, Charlie Vernon; Stefan Campbell (0-2), Rian O’Neill (0-4, 1f), Jamie Clarke (0-1). Subs: Ryan Kennedy for McShane (half-time), Ethan Rafferty (0-1f) for Campbell (39), Jarlath Og Burns for Vernon (63), Mark Shields for Hall (63), Joe McElroy for Mackin (69).
Referee: Martin McNally (Monaghan)Tags: