Look back to 1988 - Donegal lost their first game in top flight against Armagh

Peter Campbell, Spor

Reporter:

Peter Campbell, Spor

Look back to 1988 - Donegal lost their first game in top flight against Armagh
Back in 1988 when Donegal played their first game in the top flight of League football, they were also in the Athletic Grounds, Armagh.

Back in 1988 when Donegal played their first game in the top flight of League football, they were also in the Athletic Grounds, Armagh.

Under Tom Conaghan, Donegal had to go home with nothing to show for dominating the game, but they also showed that year that they learned quickly, with victories away to Kerry and home to Meath before the Christmas break.

However, in their opening games, their forwards did not punish and they suffered a narrow defeat.

Armagh 0-10

Donegal 0-9

In Armagh this week they are celebrating a most fortunate victory and thanking the stars that Donegal forwards have an insatiable appetite for crossfield play and an uncanny knack of kicking side from scoreable positions

Seldom has a team dominated an hours’s football as Donegal did in this Division 1 game at the Athletic Grounds, Armagh, on Sunday. Even more seldom is it that a side with such a share of possession failed to share the spoils, never mind win outright.

Report by Michael Daly

Against a no more than moderate opposition, Donegal did at least justify their presence in the top flight of Gaelic football but they could, had their forwards believed in themselves, have won this game.

There can be no quibble from the handful of Donegal supporters who travelled to the game about the determination of the defence and the midfield display was both brash and confident, Gavigan having a marvellous game.

With that in mind, it is all the more frustrating that our forwards, the more experienced ones in particular, let themselves and their county down. They were given ample opportunity to get winning scores but failed lamentably to do so.

Probably the most clear-cut chance of the hour fell to Charlie Mulgrew in the 4th minute of the second half. Mulgrew looked to widen an already considerable gap in the Armagh defence by toe-tapping once too often. His shot was thus covered and the opportunity to shake Armagh to the core was lost.

Although not as clear-cut, Martin McHugh had another great goal-scoring chance with a minute of normal time left. His shot was rushed and stopped, Brian Murray pointing the rebound to leave a point in it.

Ninety seconds into added time, a free 40 yards out and 10 yards from the left sideline was a final opportunity to level the game. Many may recall how Brian Murray scored twice from a similar position to level the scores with Mayo in the League in 1986. This time he shot-passed to Charlie Mulgrew and the chance was fumbled and lost.

Throughout it was a case of the forwards plumping for the wrong option. Armagh, by contrast, drove the ball long and hard and were quite happy to shoot for a score from anywhere inside 50 yards.

From 50 yards out, Donegal were still hitting diagonal crosses, and from the bottlenecks that ensured, a score was made the more difficult. On at least two occasions sideways rather than forward play resulted in possession lost and from one such mistake, Armagh scored a point.

For the new boys Seamus Carr and Pat Ward, it was an auspicious debut, Carr scoring Donegal’s first point in Division One football after nine seconds and Ward the second.

Armagh led by 0-8 to 0-4 at half-time.

Donegal went all out in the second half but could not get back on terms, even though Armagh only tagged on two more points to their tally.

Armagh: Brian McAlinden; Brian Canavan, Thomas Cassidy, Aidan Short (0-1); Gareth O’Neill, Colin Harney (0-1), Peter Rafferty; Jarlath Burns, Niall Smyth (0-1); Declan Canavan (0-2), Kieran McGurk, Martin Toye; Gerard Houlihan (0-2), Martin McQuillan (0-1), Jim McConville (0-2). Sub., Donal Harte for Smyth.

Donegal: Gary Walsh; John Joe Doherty, Brendan Dunleavy, Cathal Campbell; Donal Reid, Brian Tuohy, Martin Shovlin; Martin Gavigan, Anthony Molloy (0-1); Marty Carlin, Brian Murray (0-2), Pat Ward (0-1); Seamus Carr (0-2), Charlie Mulgrew (0-1), Martin McHugh (0-3). Subs., John Connors for Dunleavy, Tommy Ryan for Ward.

Referee: Michael Greenan (Cavan)