BY CHRIS MCNULTY IN ARMAGH
THE Armagh manager, Paul Grimley, felt the loss of Kieran Toner and Finian Moriarty had a big bearing on his side as they saw Donegal storm back to win this afternoon’s Dr McKenna Cup clash.
When Moriarty was forced off in the 57th minute Armagh were four up and they held a slender one-point lead when Toner left the field on a stretcher nursing a knee injury five minutes from the end.
Toner’s afternoon ended just after Donegal had goaled through Colm McFadden to bring themselves back from the brink and the sight of the Granemore man being carted off was certainly an unfortunate one.
With the duo gone, Armagh watched Donegal kick four of the game’s final five points to eke out the win.
“We lost Kieran Toner and Finian Moriarty, which was a big blow to us because thought they were doing very, very well on Murphy and McFadden,” Grimley said.
“That was a big blow. After that I thought it would take a hell of a lot of effort to go on and win the game.
“Both of them have knee problems so they’ll be out for the next few weeks anyway.”
With a stiff wind howling around the Athletic Grounds, conditions were far from ideal, although the Orchard boss took a lot of encouragement from his side’s performance.
Having played second fiddle for most of the first half, they came good to lead 0-7 to 0-3 at half-time and kept the momentum until McFadden’s major turned the tide.
With a combination of goalkeeper Philip McEvoy and defender Andy Mallon having defended the onslaught as if their very lives depended upon it, Grimley was frustrated that Donegal had managed to force the goal.
He said: “The goal was a bit fortunate, but these things happen and you have to learn to get over them. I don’t think that we really did get over it. Losing the two boys on top of that was just another shot.
“I was proud of the way we played, particularly in the second half. I can’t fault them.
“They did everything to try and win the game.
“The commitment they showed in the last number of weeks in training came out in the second half. That’s where it has to come out. Whatever we do in training we could never replicate that last 35 minutes.
“It’s a learning curve so hopefully it’ll stand to us for when Donegal come back here again in three months time. Hopefully we’ll be better prepared.”
Grimley was referring to that stage of the season when Donegal return to Armagh for the final Division 2 League game of the year in April.
Crossmaglen Rangers only jetted back from their team holiday in Florida on Saturday and Grimley sent in Paul Hughes and Jamie Clarke as substitutes.
He said: “It was an encouraging performance, particularly because we finished with four under 21s on the team and two lads who just got off a plane from Florida with Cross to come out and play.
“We have an awful lot of injuries and we’ve let the boys away to play with colleges so we’re down to the bare bones.
“It shows you that the gap is not as mighty as some would say.”
DECLAN BONNER will look to collect the first piece of silverware from his second tenure in charge of Donegal.