Patrick McBrearty slaps home the only goal of the Ulster SFC quarter-final against Armagh
In the end, it was as routine as you could’ve imagined as Donegal put in a fantastic all-round performance to defeat Armagh in the Ulster SFC quarter-final at MacCumhaill Park.
With much of the talk in the lead-up to the match being of melees, objections and appeals, Declan Bonner and his side kept their eye on the ball and ran out convincing winners.
Michael Murphy typically led by example with a willing support cast, while Patrick McBrearty scored the only goal of the game to finish off a flowing move on 47 minutes. A word too for the defence, where again the likes of Brendan McCole, Caolan Ward and Stephen McMenamin went about their business in quiet, yet effective manner.
Armagh’s wait for a first Ulster final appearance since 2008 goes on, although Kieran McGeeney would have little complaints about the result here, with Rian O’Neill, Stefan Campbell and Aidan Nugent back in following their appeals. Donegal had let it sit, so Odhrán McFadden Ferry and Neil McGee watched on as their side made a decent start, with a strong wind at their backs in front of the 13,689 in attendance.
The led shifted over and back, with Eoghan Ban Gallagher, Murphy and Jason McGee, who started imperiously, helping Donegal into a 0-3 to 0-1 lead. Armagh were more economical, with Rory Grugan on song, and were 0-5 to 0-4 up on 20 minutes.
Donegal finished the first 35 minutes well, with Michael Langan, Murphy, McBrearty and Ciaran Thompson adding to the scores. Aidan Forker, on 37 minutes, kicked the first Armagh wide.
With Donegal bossing Ethan Rafferty’s kick-outs, a three-point lead, 0-9 to 0-6, at half-time was a decent one, although whether it would be enough with Armagh due the elements in part two was anyone’s guess.
Armagh had what they claimed was a perfectly good goal disallowed moments after the break, when O'Neill claimed a dropping Grugan ball, before losing his footing a metre from goal when challenged by Shaun Patton. O’Neill’s first poke at goal was blocked but the ball squirmed and somehow ended up over the line, with referee Maurice Deegan calling a foul.
Three minutes into the second half, Patton made a good stop when Aidan Nugent, just introduced, cannoned a close-range effort when Rian O’Neill free had come back down off the upright.
Ten minutes into that second half and the only score was a Donegal one, with Shane O’Donnell ramming over following a piercing Peadar Mogan run. Whatever chance Armagh had of making inroads were severely hampered by seven wides from eight shots.
Then, 12 minutes into the second half, McBrearty finished off a move that included spade work from Shane O’Donnell, McGee and then Caolan Ward to put Donegal 1-10 to 0-7 in front.
From then on, Donegal matched what Armagh did on the scoreboard, never overly uncomfortable with the visitors’ shooting erratic. Stefan Campbell made an impact, with O’Neill well-shackled by McCole.
The array of the Donegal scoring threats - Langan, McBrearty, Shane O’Donnell and Conor O’Donnell, as well as the ultra-dependable Murphy, made for progression to the semi-final against Cavan and, dare it be said, a chance of revenge for 2020.
Scorers for Donegal: Michael Murphy 0-6 (4fs), Patrick McBrearty 1-2 (1f), Michael Langan 0-3, Eoghan Ban Gallagher, Jason McGee, Ciaran Thompson, Shane O’Donnell, Conor O’Donnell 0-1 each.
Scorers for Armagh: Rory Grugan 0-5 (3fs), Jarly Óg Burns, Tiernan Kelly, Oisin O’Neill, Ben Crealey, Stefan Campbell, Conor Turbitt, Greg McCabe 0-1 each.
Donegal: Shaun Patton; Caolan Ward, Brendan McCole, Stephen McMenamin; Ryan McHugh, Eoghan Ban Gallagher, Peadar Mogan; Hugh McFadden, Jason McGee; Ciaran Thompson, Shane O’Donnell, Michael Langan; Patrick McBrearty, Michael Murphy, Jamie Brennan.
Subs: Caolan McGonagle for McGee (51), Conor O’Donnell for Thompson (54), Niall O’Donnell for McFadden (61), Paul Brennan for S.O’Donnell (68), Aaron Doherty for Brennan (70+3).
Armagh: Ethan Rafferty; James Morgan, Aidan Forker, Aaron McKay; Niall Grimley, Greg McCabe, Jarly Óg Burns; Connaire Mackin, Ben Crealey; Jemar Hall, Rory Grugan, Tiernan Kelly; Conor Turbitt, Rian O’Neill, Jason Duffy.
Subs: Aidan Nugent for Duffy (half-time), Stefan Campbell for Hall (47), Oisin O’Neill for Mackin (50), Ross McQuillan for Forker (62).
Referee: Maurice Deegan (Laois).
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