Michael Murphy powered Donegal to an emphatic win against Armagh in the Athletic Grounds in Armagh.
Donegal were winning a championship game on Armagh soil for the first time since 1967. And they did it in style.
Armagh were the bogey team of Donegal in the past but Jim McGuinness laid that bogey in Croke Park last August and Rory Gallagher’s side produced an even greater display.
Donegal produced a magnificent first half to lead by 1-9 to 0-2 at the break.
In the build-up to the game there was a sense of trepidation, especially travelling to the Athletic Grounds, but this game was almost over by the 12th minute as Donegal led by 1-3 to no score.
There was an exhibition of free kicking by Michael Murphy while Patrick McBrearty was on fire inside. Indeed for some poor calls by David Coldrick against McBrearty, then the half-time deficit of 10 points would have been greater.
Donegal blitzed Armagh in the opening minutes with Neil Gallagher finding Patrick McBrearty with a long delivery. His first effort was blocked but he was able to slide home the rebound to the net.
Three minutes later a bad kick out was won by McBrearty and this time Neil Gallagher was on hand to point.
The high delivery was really working with Michael Murphy at the fulcrum. Another delivery saw McBrearty heavily fouled by McKeever and Murphy pointed the free. McBrearty was almost in for another goal before Martin McElhinney powered through to point on 12 minutes.
Armagh got their opening point when Aaron Findon got his fist to an Ethan Rafferty delivery that went just over the crossbar, but Donegal were relentless with Odhran MacNiallais on the end of a great move to point.
Michael Murphy found the range from 55m with a magnificent free and four minutes later in the 23rd minute, he repeated the act from 50m.
Murphy then found Patrick McBrearty for a wonderful point on 26 minutes before Tony Kernan got Armagh’s only other score of the half.
In the final minutes Karl Lacey strode forward to finish a move involving Mark McHugh, Frank McGlynn and Christy Toye and the coup de grace was applied by Murphy in added time as he stroked over from a 60m free.
As expected the intensity levels dropped in the second half. It would have been impossible to keep up their first half levels. Armagh had a goal chance on 37 minutes but Jamie Clarke’s effort came back off an upright and Stefan Campbell was wide with the rebound.
Ciaran McKeever was trying his best to rally the troops and he had a point on 42 minutes, but Donegal put the game beyond doubt a minute later. Michael Murphy was again at the start with Frank McGlynn powered through to lay off to Martin O’Reilly and the MacCumhaill’s man showed great composure to dummy the ‘keeper and slide home the second goal.
Armagh had three points from Caolan Rafferty, Ethan Rafferty (free) and Tony Kernan (free).
Michael Murphy found the range again from 50m as the game trundled to an inevitable conclusion. In the final minutes Tony Kernan had Armagh’s last point while Odhran MacNiallais brought down the curtain on the scoring with an injury time point.
Late in the game Paul Durcan pulled off a magnificent save from Ciaran O’Hanlon and Aaron Findon was black carded after hauling Anthony Thompson to the ground.
It was a magnificent all-round display for Donegal, even without the talents of Colm McFadden, who missed out because of a virus.
The Armagh challenge may have been disappointing, but nothing can be taken from a magnificent Donegal display. The first half was akin to the All-Ireland final win over Mayo in 2012.
Donegal: Paul Durcan; Paddy McGrath, Neil McGee, Eamon McGee; Ryan McHugh, Karl Lacey (0-1), Frank McGlynn; Neil Gallagher (0-1), Odhran MacNiallais (0-2); Christy Toye, Martin McElhinney (0-1); Martin O’Reilly (1-0); Patrick McBrearty (1-1), Michael Murphy (0-5,5f), Mark McHugh. Subs., Anthony Thompson for E McGee ht; Hugh McFadden for McBrearty 51; David Walsh for Toye 56; Gary McFadden for McElhinney 66; Eamonn Doherty for O’Reilly 69.
Armagh: Matthew McNeice; Finnian Moriarty, Charlie Vernon, Andy Mallon; James Morgan (0-1), Ciaran McKeever (0-1), Stefan Campbell; Aaron Findon (0-1), Ethan Rafferty (0-1,f); Caolan Rafferty (0-1), Miceal McKenna, Aidan Forker; Andrew Murnin, Tony Kernan (0-3,2f), Jamie Clarke. Subs., Michael Murray for McKenna 30; Kevin Dyas for Moriarty 31; Ciaran O’Hanlon for E Rafferty 51; Brendan Donaghy for Forker 57; Stephen Harrold for Findon b card 67.
Referee: David Coldrick (Meath).