Colm McFadden recalls the many battles between Donegal and Armagh in recent past

Colm McFadden recalls the many battles between Donegal and Armagh in recent past

The 2014 game in Croke Park with Dr Moran sent flying and Donegal players in headlocks. Picture: Sportsfile

There have been tough days for Donegal against Armagh over the last 20 years and none tougher than the 2014 meeting in Croke Park in the All-Ireland quarter-final.
It was the day Dr Kevin Moran became the second 'Flying Doctor' in the history of the GAA. The original 'Flying Doctor' was Padraig Carney of Mayo, who acquired the nickname because of his transatlantic trips to play for his native county.
The Donegal doctor was the victim of a hefty push from Armagh player Aaron Findlan as he went to treat a Donegal player at the Hill 16 goals.
One of the players involved that day was Colm McFadden and the St Michael's man was an ever present in Donegal teams that found the going tough against the Orchard county throughout the last two decades.
"It was a quare physical game that. There were a few of us in headlocks at different stages. We were lucky, we got out of jail that day. Murphy might have levelled it and McBrearty got the winner.
"That's the kind of Armagh, they can make life difficult for you. And now that they have those O'Neills and Jamie Clarke, when you have quality forwards like that you are always in with a chance."
This week Colm McFadden was basking in the glory of Finn Harps with his fellow teacher and manager, Ollie Horgan, in the Halls of St Eunan's College after the Galway man led the Finn Park residents to safety on Monday night.
"Did you see the chance that Waterford missed?" McFadden asks, speaking of the chance that Waterford had in the dying seconds of the game.
Which brought us nicely to Sunday's thrilling end of the Munster semi-final in Pairc Ui Chaoimh between Cork and Kerry.
"Unbelievable. Cork did well, good luck to them, they put in some tackles. It was good to see," said McFadden.
The St Michael's man had a fine career in the Donegal shirt, representing the county 173 times (only Neil McGee has exceeded that with 184). Reflecting back on his meetings with Armagh, he is full of praise for the Orchard men.
"Armagh were a fine team back then. When we were up against them in Ulster, you didn't like losing to them. But then later when you were out of the championship, you watched them playing. People watch Dublin play now, maybe not in recent years, but when they were in full flow they were good to watch.
"I mind Armagh in those times when they were in full flow they were great to watch and they played a great brand of football. They were physical but they were honest; they would hit you hard, but they played an honest game and got on with it.
"They could play football up top too, they had some great forwards," said McFadden, who agreed that they were unlucky not to win a second All-Ireland.
"They were knocking on the door for a couple of years and I suppose that first All-Ireland is hard to win. In that decade you had Kerry and Tyrone, two powerhouses and two of the best teams that were ever about. It's hard to squeeze in an All-Ireland," he said.
"We had tough days against Armagh. It's kinda funny, if you get hammered by one of the big teams now, you get beat by 20 or 30 points. Back then if you got beat by five or six points it was a hammering. Teams didn't put up big scores like they do now.
"We drew with them one day in Clones but they beat us well the next day, they got a couple of goals."
McFadden has a particular memory of the 2003 All-Ireland semi-final which was one of the close encounters.
"That was a tight game. Christy (Toye) got the goal in the first half that day, didn't he? It was nip and tuck. Was that the day Ray Sweeney got the second yellow? We were able to mix it with them at times but then in that Ulster final, they gave us a right beating."
McFadden was playing his 100th game for Donegal on that infamous day in Crossmaglen in 2010 which was just before Jim McGuinness took over as manager.
"Jamie Clarke was a fine player back then. He didn't really push on. He had a great style about him. He was a bit like 'Gooch' Cooper, but maybe a bit more skilful, if that could be possible. He is still there.
"I wouldn't know that much about the present team. They have the O'Neill brothers, who are two good players. They have strength as well as the skill; they will take a bit of watching."
But while the odds favour Donegal, McFadden urges caution.
"You have to be careful, especially after Donegal put in a big performance against Tyrone. You have to guard against complacency. I think that Donegal team, I know Neil McGee went off in the second and he looked really sharp in the first half, really fit. He had good pace about him and he came out a few times.
"You missed that steadiness he brings to the full-back line in the second half, but Donegal when they were on the ball, their scores looked like very easy scores. They moved it and moved it and made football look easy."
Asked about the form of his clubmate Michael Langan, he finds it easy to get the words to describe him.
"He has a lovely style about him. He dropped over that one in the first half against the wind in tough conditions and it just sailed over. You would think it was perfect conditions, the way he stroked it over the bar.
"He is good to watch. I mind him when he was underage coming down to train with us towards the end of the season; he was maybe 16 at the time and he would have stood out then, his awareness to see passes. He was very comfortable on the ball and you knew he was going to develop into a good player, and hopefully he continues. He was very good the last day.
"He is laid back but he takes his football seriously. He is keen. He caught a ball in the first half when he was backing out into a crowded field and when it was not easy to get off the ground, going backwards. He is not all skill, he can mix it as well," he says.
"He is a real handful and is going well. He is deceptive; that time he galloped up the field and took the ball off Mogan's shoulder, he was going at some canter that time. He can motor."
McFadden also has great praise for the kick-outs of Donegal 'keeper Shaun Patton. "That kick-out for the goal was something else; the speed he got it away quick. It was some ball."
Is he better than Paul 'Papa' Durcan, McFadden was not going to decide. "It would be unfair really to compare them. Papa could do similar things.
"It is a big part of the game now. And it is one of the things that teams are afraid of against Donegal, that long kick-out.
"And then when Donegal get possession of the ball they are as good as any team in the country at working scores, with plenty of options," said McFadden, who added that it would be good to see Patrick McBrearty back as well.
"To think that you have that option to come into that team, it is those quality forwards that you need on the big day to get the scores that matter," said the St Michael's man.
"Ulster is wide open now, but you can see in winter football and knock-out championship anything can happen. They have to be careful and not take Armagh for granted."

If you have a story or want to send a photo or video to us please contact the Donegal Live editorial team any time. To contact Donegal Democrat and Donegal People's Press, email editorial@donegaldemocrat.ie To contact Donegal Post, email editor@donegalpost.com To contact Inish Times, email editor@inishtimes.com.

More News

Buy the e-paper of the Donegal Democrat, Donegal People's Press, Donegal Post and Inish Times here for instant access to Donegal's premier news titles.

Keep up with the latest news from Donegal with our daily newsletter featuring the most important stories of the day delivered to your inbox every evening at 5pm.