Donegal minors lifted the An tAthair O Muiri Cup for the fifth time when they defeated Armagh in the curtain raiser in Clones.
Donegal were superb in the opening half, but then struggled to build on their nine point interval lead.
It took an injury time goal from Jamie Brennan to finally ease the nerves as Armagh kept plugging away without ever really threatening.
Donegal got off to a great start with Cian Mulligan putting Jamie Brennan through to point with his left after just 35 seconds.
Armagh had a half-chance for a goal when the ball broke in the Donegal goalmouth and Jarlath Og Burns toepoked towards goal but it went just outside the post.
It took Donegal a little while to get into their stride but points from a Lorcan Connor free (after Jamie Brennan fouled) and a great finish from Stephen McBrearty after Michael Carrol initiated the move, seemed to settle them.
The goal that was threatening came on 14 minutes with Michael Carroll heavily involved.
He started the move in his own half but then took the penultimate pass to put John Campbell through. Campbell cut inside his man and rattled the top of the net for a great finish.
Carroll followed up with the point of the half from 45m close to the sideline and Donegal almost had a second goal on 17 minutes when Caolan McGonigle broke through and set up John Campbell only to see the effort taken off the line.
From the ‘45’ McGonigle stroked over another great score.
The points flowed with Stephen McBrearty and John Campbell hitting long range efforts to leave Donegal 1-7 to no score ahead after 20 minutes.
Oisin O’Neill, a nephew of Oisin McConville, had Armagh’s opening score a minute later but Donegal still looked far superior and on 27 minutes Colm Kelly came forward to release Lorcan Connor, who was hauled down by Cathal Boylan who was black carded. Connor pointed the free.
Before half-time Oisin O’Neill had a second Armagh point but from another Donegal goal chance which denied Jamie Brennan, Lorcan Connor tapped over after the ball was recycled.
Half-time: Donegal 1-9, Armagh 0-2
Ryan Hughes had an Armagh point within 25 seconds of the resumption but Donegal should have buried the game as John Campbell sent Jamie Brennan clear and he was hauled down by Ryan Kearney, who received the second black card of the game. Substitute ‘keeper Colm Rafferty saved well from Lorcan Connor’s penalty.
Armagh kept coming and Ryan Hughes pointed a free and Eoghan Ban Gallagher had to take a ball off the line.
However, a three minute scoring burst in the middle of the half saw Donegal points from Lorcan Connor, Stephen McBrearty (after a delightful interpassing move with his Kilcar clubmate Andrew McClean) and Jamie Brennan with his fist, pushed Donegal 1-12 to 0-4 clear on 45 minutes.
But they would not score again until Jamie Brennan got on the end of a Gavin McBride centre on 62 minutes.
Armagh started to creep back with points from Conor Cullen (2), Oisin O’Neill and Ryan Hughes (2) to reduce the margin to five, but that was as close as they got. Danny Rodgers did make one great save from Kyle Mallon.
Eoghan Ban Gallagher was named man-of-the-match while Michael Carroll, Jamie Brennan, Stephen McBrearty and Ciaran Gillespie also played a huge part.
The win brought thecurtain down on Donegal’s Ulsteer campaign, winning the Minor League and Championship double.
They can now set their sights on the All-Ireland series and further glory.
Donegal: Danny Rodgers; Danny Monagle, Ciaran Gillespie, Colm Kelly; Cian Mulligan, Tony McClenaghan, Eoghan Ban Gallagher; Niall Harley, Caolan McGonigle (0-1,45); Andrew McClean, Lorcan Connor (0-4,3f), Michael Carroll (0-1); Jamie Brennan (1-2), John Campbell (1-1), Stephen McBrearty (0-3). Subs., Ethan O’Donnell for Campbell 43; Conor Doherty for Harley 53; Christian Bonner for McClean 55; Conall O’Boyle for E O’Donnell, black card 58; Gavin McBride for Connor 59
Armagh: Ryan Kearney; Fergus Quinn, Aidan Rushe, Cathal Donnell; Cathal Boylan, Cathair McKinney, Conor McNicholl; Jarlath Og Burns, Shane Conlon; Jack Rafferty, Oisin O’Neill (0-3,1f), Kyle Mallon; Ryan Hughes (0-4,1f), Conor Grimley, Caolan McConville. Subs., Conor Cullen (0-3) for Boylan 28 Black Card; Colm Rafferty for Kearney, black card 34; Ryan McKeown for Grimley 43; Conor Murphy for Conlon 48.
Referee: Ronan Barry (Down)