Donegal suffered a successive defeat in Division 2B of the Allianz League with yesterday’s nine points defeat at the hands of Armagh at a biting cold O’Donnell Park.
Armagh . . . . . . . . . 2-14
Donegal . . . . . . . . . . 1-8
The result means that Donegal have nothing to show after their two opening games and already it is pretty clear that Ardal McDermott’s new look young side have a fight on their hands to survive in the division.
Without the long term injured Jamsie Donnelly and Enda McDermott (both not expected to return until the latter stages of the league), Danny Cullen and Kevin Campbell, Armagh were always going to be a tough nut to crack.
The Orchard men are more seasoned Division 2B campaigners and it was this and their edge in the physical stakes that saw them pull away in the second half in the heavy going and a wet sod.
Donegal fared well enough in the first half and were very much in touch as they trailed by a point, 1-7 to 1-6, at half-time.
Sean MacCumhaill’s Paddy Hannigan, a late replacement for Kevin Campbell, bagged the goal towards the end of the first quarter that suggested that Donegal were going to make a game of it against a highly favoured Armagh.
Hannigan smashed to the net after being picked out by Ronan McDermott in front of the Armagh posts. The goal, on 12 minutes, propelled the home team into a 1-1 to 0-2 lead after Ryan Gaffney and Conor Corvan had hit Armagh’s opening two points.
Lee Henderson who ended the game with six points, had got Donegal off the mark from a 45 metre free after Jack O’Loughlin was fouled.
Gaffney and Corvan went on to be a real thorn up front for the visitors. Gaffney ended as the game’s top scorer with eight points, six of them from placed balls, and Corvan posted 1-2.
His goal seconds after Hannigan had hit the Armagh net, came whe he pounced after the Donegal defence struggled to clear their lines and good pressure from and a quick hand pass from Cathal Carvill.
Gaffney quickly added another free as Armagh pulled two clear again and a 1-3 to 1-1 lead. But with Donegal, who had a strong wind in their backs, giving as good as they got in open play Henderson levelled the tie at 1-3 each with 15 minutes left in the half.
While shaded in the possession stakes in the closing quarter hour Sean McVeigh and Joe Boyle from play and Henderson in response to points from Gaffney (2) and Corvan meant sure Donegal were very much in the tie at the interval.
Shane Gallen replaced Jack O’Loughlin permanently on the resumption after coming on as a blood sub for O’Loughlin in the middle of the first half. O’Loughlin was withdrawn due to a suspected concussion.
The opening exchanges of the second half were pretty even before Armagh made the decisive strike on 51 minutes when half-time replacement Dillon McKenna struck the second goal after good work from Cathal Carvill.
The goal opened up a 2-9 to 1-6 lead. James King and Gaffney posted the early second half points after both teams were reduced to 14 with the sending off of Paddy Hannigan and Ciaran Toner, who were shown straight red cards.
Both Donegal and Armagh confirmed afterwards that they would be appealing the red cards.
Hannigan and Toner were picked out by the referee following what appeared to be a minor enough bout of pulling and dragging involving a number of players from both sides.
The referee flashed the red cards after consulting with two of his umpires.
Henderson replied to Armagh’s second goal with two quickfire pointed frees to reduce the margin to four points, 2-9 to 1-8, with seven minutes of normal time remaining.
However, the Donegal challenge wilted shortly after and when Joe Boyle got his marching orders after picking up a second yellow card, the game was up.
With Donegal down to 13, Armagh sunk the dagger in the closing minutes with five points without response from Gaffney (3) and one each from John Corvan and Declan Coulter to run out convincing winners.
Donegal; Paul Burns, Martin McGrath, Christopher McDermott, Paddy Doherty; Jack O’Loughlin, Joe Boyle (0-1) Niall Cleary; Ciaran Matthewson, Paul Sheridan; Bernard Lafferty, Paddy Nelson, Sean McVeigh (0-1); Lee Henderson (0-6,6f), Ronan McDermott, Paddy Hannigan(1-0). Subs: Shane Gallen for M McGrath (27); Gavin Browne for J O’Loughlin (h/t), Sam Doherty for P Nelson (58), Stephen Gillespie for R McDermott (59).
Armagh; Simon Doherty, Ciaran Clifford, Adam Toal, Stephen Keenan (0-1); James King (0-1), Nathan Curry, Cormac Toner; Kieran McKernan, Eoin McGuinness; Declan Coulter (0-1),, David Carvill, Ryan Gaffney(0-8, 6f); C Corvan (1-2), John Corvan (0-1), Cathal Carvill. Subs;Dillon McKenna (1-0) for S Keenan (h/t) Tiaran Nevin for A Toal (62), Odhran Curry for C Corvan (68), Paddy O’Brien for J King (71), Liam Woods for E McGuinness (70).
Referee: Colum Cunning (Antrim).