Donegal - Armagh: Not good for an ageing heart

Gerry McLaughlin


Gerry McLaughlin

Donegal - Armagh: Not good for an ageing heart
Get the valium quick, and don’t get into a schemozzle with Armagh, even if their colourful boss Paul Grimely does break his vow of silence.

Get the valium quick, and don’t get into a schemozzle with Armagh, even if their colourful boss Paul Grimely does break his vow of silence.

That’s the blunt message from Saturday’s flirtation with disaster.

But it was all so hopeful earlier on when the Tir Chonaill fans strode proudly down from the Hills, a river of green and gold looking for a sniff of Sam Maguire, on Ireland’s greatest field of dreams.

These are the colours of youth and hope, while Armagh were as Orange as any Dutchman as the hordes gathered in the Northside around hostelries like Quinns and Gills, for in August there is nothing worse than dehydration.

But the worst pain of all was waiting for the final whistle on a day when Armagh almost pulverised Tir Conaill

And there is nothing quite like Dublin. Dubh Linn..the Black Pool on big match days as you can almost smell the pre-match tension on the streets.

For generations, the Derg Vale has been like a little Donegal and Barry’s Hotel nearby has sparked some memorable meetings over the years, as Gaelic Ireland comes out to play.

In the Skylon Hotel, Brian “Ogie” McEniff was pressing the flesh and making sure we were being looked after.

Outside, in this wicked month of August, the streets were taken over by Clann Conaill’s long stepping mountain men and women, old men with sea cracked Gaeltacht faces and buxom young women bursting with life and hope.

It is a time when the Earth fires out its fruit before dying in ice . . . a time of wasps and big wagers . . . a great Gaelic cycle that fittingly ends on the third Sunday in September.

Two years ago Irelands’ kindest bookie, Andrew Doherty, from Ballyshannon gave me 33/1 on Tir Chonaill to take the title.

Such generosity went beyond words, and its fruits were honoured, as the whole of Donegal basked in a green and truly golden bubble.

Big Jim McGuinness sang “Destination Donegal” on a Sam Enchanted Evening in Donegal Town to show that he was not a one trick pony who could only just walk on water.

Andrew is a lot cagier this time, but 16/1 is not a bad bet on a team that is still reaching for the stars.

In the last decade, Armagh made Donegal and Jim McGuinness (as a player) sup sorrow from several rusty spoons so this would be payback in a sense.

Jim took over shortly after the Massacre in Crossmaglen when Jamie Clarke went through our defence like a rattlesnake at a tablecloth.

Mercifully there was to be no repeat.

As for the first half you would put in a better weekend with the toothache, as Donegal and Armagh huffed, puffed and bored for Ireland

And then we had a bit of a Last Tango in Croker as two Armagh players stopped Karl Lacey from coming back to defence after an attack.

That sparked a mass shove fest where the Donegal doctor was sent on the flat of his back by an Armagh player and the strong but silent Paul Grimley and Kieran McGeeeney joined in the shenanigans.

McGeeney was politely escorted off the pitch by the ever-helpful Eamon McGee.

It seemed to settle Armagh who went on to dominate most of the half.

They should have led, but for a moment of magic from Ryan McHugh who superbly set up Odhran MacNiallais for a priceless goal as Tir Conaill led by 1-5 to 0-6 at the interval.

But five of those scores came from frees, whereas Armagh scythed through for a few fine points.

Donegal squeezed a bit harder on Armagh in the second half but they hit seven wides in the first 20 minutes of that period.

They won a lot of ball, but it took all of Michael Murphy’s accuracy to keep Tir Conaill on top and they were just not able to deliver the killer punch.

And then the unthinkable happened as Stefan Campbell punched a cross to the net as the ball came off the post against Paul Durcan.

All those wides came back to haunt us but a left-footed Michael Murphy and Patrick McBrearty walked tall when it mattered when Donegal danced back from disaster.

But it is not good for the nerves!