Donegal put in a very competent performance to outclass Armagh in the quarter-final of the Electric Ireland Ulster Minor Championship in the Athletic Grounds last night.
There were some early nerves but once Donegal got into their stride, they were the much superior team with Armagh limited to an aerial bombardment of the Donegal goals.
Donegal had two changes from the side that started against Tyrone with Philip McNern and Jason McGee replacing Nathan Gavigan and Kane Barrett.
The early exchanges saw Donegal dominated around the middle of the field and after ten minutes the home side were two points to the good, thanks to two Oisin O’Neill points, the first on two minutes and the second on 10 minutes.
Armagh looked very capable in that opening period with O’Neill, a nephew of Oisin McConville, having Donegal in some trouble but his teammates were very wasteful.
By half-time Armagh had racked up six wides as Donegal gradually got into the game. Ethan O’Donnell had them level by the 14th minute, the first from a free after Conor Doherty was fouled. Doherty had been found by a superb ball from Jason McGee.
For the second Rory Carr found O’Donnell with a cross field ball and there was a goal chance on for a split second.
Conor Doherty put Donegal ahead after Niall O’Donnell was fouled but Aaron Boyle equalised after picking up a punched Danny Rodgers clearance.
Niall O’Donnell picked out Rory Carr to edge Donegal ahead on 18 minutes and two minutes later Michael Langan and Rory Carr were involved before Conor Doherty found the range.
They had two great goal chances shortly after with Naoise O’Baoill putting Niall O’Donnell clear but he blazed wide, while Conor Doherty was denied by a great save by Caolan Donaghy minutes later.
In the final four minutes of the half Rory Carr, just as he did against Tyrone, hit a great ‘45’ after a fumble by the Armagh ‘keeper and in the final minutes of the half Conor Doherty and Ethan O’Donnell pointed frees, both won by Conor Doherty and both fairly soft awards.
Indeed, one of the talking points of the opening half was the referee, Anthony Marron, who gave a number of harsh over-carrying calls against the home side.
Half-time: Donegal 0-8, Armagh 0-3.
For the start of the second half Declan Bonner re-arranged the team with Brendan McCole going to midfield and Ethan O’Donnell going back to the half-back line.
After 40, Donegal got the first score when Michael Langan dispossessed an Armagh defender and Conor Doherty had an easy point.
From the kick-out Michael Carroll put Naoise O’Baoill through to find the net. The ‘keeper did get a touch but the ball dribbled to the net.
Naoise was involved again a minute later sending Michael Carroll clear to point. Oisin O’Neill had a rare point from a free for Armagh but Donegal responded with Conor Doherty hitting two in a minute with Philip McNern finding Philip Doherty with a great pass for the first and Philip was again involved in the second.
Oisin O’Neill hit a wonder score for Armagh with the outside of his right. Donegal responded well with points from Ethan O’Donnell (free) and another great point from Conor Doherty after great work by Rory Carr. Armagh were reduced to hoisting high balls into the Donegal ‘square’ but Stephen McMenamin was really strong.
Donegal finished strongly with the icing beijng put on the cake when Daire O’Baoill powered through the centre to fire home the second goal with four minutes left.
The final points were for Armagh with their best player Oisin O’Neill hitting a ‘45’ and Conor O’Neill getting their final consolation in added time.
Overall, it was a fantastic display by Declan Bonner’s side with stars from back to front. Michael Langan was a colossus in the middle of the field; Stephen McMenamin a man mountain at full-back; Naomh Columba pair Philip Doherty and Philip McNern were outstanding; the O’Baoill cousins got the goals and put in big performances.
Michael Carroll led by example and Rory Carr was a great target man. Ethan O’Donnell took his scores well while Conor Doherty put in a man of the match performance.
Donegal will now play the winners of Derry and Down in the semi-final on Saturday, 27th June.
Donegal: Danny Rodgers; Gary McFadden, Stephen McMenamin, Philip Doherty; Daire O Baoill (1-0), Brendan McCole, Philip McNern; Jason McGee, Michael Carroll (0-1); Michael Langan, Niall O’Donnell, Ethan O’Donnell (0-4,3f); Naoise O Baoill (1-0), Conor Doherty (0-7,2f), Rory Carr (0-2 1,45). Subs.: Kane Barrett for N O’Donnell 45; Seaghan Ferry for P Doherty 49; Eoghan McGettigan for N O’Baoill 51; Nathan Gavigan for R Carr 55; Barry Curran for E O’Donnell 58; John Ross Molloy for D O’Baoill 59
Armagh: Caolan Donaghy; Declan Loye, Barry McCambridge, Ryan Owens; Cathal Boylan, Conor Murphy, Conor O’Neill (0-1); Paul Quinn, Jarlath Og Burns; Rian O’Neill, Mark McCabe, Oisin O’Neill (0-5,1f,45); Charlie Magill, Tom O’Kane, Aaron Boyle (0-1). Subs.: Conor Grimley Magill ht; Jason Duffy for O’Kane 40; Ryan Gaskin for A Boyle; Shea Conaty for Owens, both 41; Stephen Morris for Quinn 43; Liam Doyle for R O’Neill 57
Referee: Anthony Marron (Monaghan).