DONEGAL 1-09 ARMAGH 0-05
REPORT BY CHRIS MCNULTY AT O’DONNELL PARK
DONEGAL’S minors booked a ticket to next weekend’s Ulster Minor League final after seeing off Armagh in the semi-final at O’Donnell Park.
Buncrana man John Campbell hit a goal and four points for Declan Bonner’s side, who advance to play Tyrone in the final.
Ultra-defensive Armagh – who conceded all bar one of Donegal’s kick-outs – tried to wear Donegal down in the first-half, keeping the home side scoreless for the first 24 minutes.
A mini purple patch in the closing six minutes of that first period saw Donegal take charge and they were never in any trouble throughout the second half.
A dour opening, in which frustrated Donegal’s shooting was off-cue and where Donegal wasted a lot of possession, saw Armagh go two in front, thanks to a brace of points from Keelan McConville.
Eleven times in the first half Donegal were wide and it proved a hair-pulling opening chapter for their supporters.
Finally, Donegal shook the sleep from their heads and Ethan O’Donnell surged through then middle to clip over a point that rallied the troops. Remarkably, having failed to raise a flag for twenty-four minutes, Donegal scored 1-3 in the final five minutes of the first half to take a four-point lead with them to the break.
The goal arrived just after O’Donnell opened their account. Eoin ‘Ban’ Gallagher’s relentless chasing saw the Killybegs win possession for his side. A quick off-load to his left-hand side found Campbell and the big Buncrana man side-stepped Cathal Donnelly before sliding low past Ryan Kearney for the lead.
A fabulous, curling effort from O’Donnell put three between them and, in the final minute of the half, Cian Mulligan teed up Campbell, who tipped the scales further in favour of the Tir Chonaill men.
Campbell turned provider with a superb cross-field ball to Lorcan Connor, who applied the finish. Even with McConville keeping Armagh in check, the Orchard just didn’t have the attacking nous to Donegal sweat and it was a strong performance at the back from Bonner’s boys.
Goalkeeper Danny Rodgers dealt well with two dangerous balls into his stratosphere, one in the fifth minute when he determinedly held possession despite strong pressure from Paul Quinn. A goal at that stage, when the margins were so thin, could have had catastrophic consequences for his side.
The Dungloe clubman scored ten out of ten again ten minutes from time when he deflected the flight of the ball away from the in-rushing Jarlath Óg Burns.
Campbell magnificently extended the lead, a beautiful effort off the outside of his right boot sailing between the sticks. Having won possession from the subsequent kick-out, midfielder drover over for a five-point lead.
Donegal had a sniff of a goal when Ethan O’Donnell’s sideline ball dropped invitingly on the edge of the square. Kearney came to fetch, but found himself dispossessed by Gavin McBride, who slotted over.
A brace of points from Campbell late in the day sealed the deal and clinched a seven-point winning margin.
DONEGAL: Danny Rodgers; Danny Monagle, Ciaran Gillespie, Conor Morrison; Cian Mulligan, Tony McClenaghan, Connall O’Boyle; Caolan McGonagle, Michael Carroll (0-1); John Campbell (1-4, 1f), Eoin ‘Ban’ Gallagher, Ethan O’Donnell (0-2); Niall Friel, Gavin McBride (0-1), Lorcan Connor (0-1). Subs: Conor Doherty for O’Boyle (39 mins), Stephen McMenamin for Carroll (48 mins), Ciaran Diver for McBride (53 mins), Shane O’Donnell for McClenaghan (58 mins), John McDyre for Morrison (59 mins).
ARMAGH: Ryan Kearney; Kyle Mallon, Aidan Rushe, Cathal Donnelly; Cathal Boylan, Cahair McKinney, Conor McNicholl; Jarlath Óg Burns, Sean Conlon (0-1); Kieran Higgins, Paul Quinn, Keelan McConville (0-4, 3f); Conor Murphy, Conor Cullen, Ryan McKeown. Subs: Jack Rafferty for Higgins (half-time), Fergus Quinn for P.Quinn (half-time), Ryan Hughes for Cullen (44 mins), Phelim McArdle for Murphy (47 mins), Finnian Maguire for Mallon (55 mins).
REFEREE: Niall McKenna (Monaghan).