Grimley riled as Armagh suffer relegation misery at hands of Donegal
FIVE points may have separated the sides at the finish but in reality they were poles apart following this throbbing Allianz League Division Two contest at the Athletic Grounds yesterday.
For Donegal, the rich promise of Division One beckons next term, for Armagh the sombre realisation that life in the comparative backwater of Division Three will be a completely new experience for them.
And the reaction of the respective managers said it all, too. Donegal boss Jim McGuinness beamed from ear to ear whereas his counterpart Paul Grimley offered a face of thunder following what he felt was an incompetent display by referee Fergal Kelly.
In lauding what he described as "a good campaign" McGuinness gave more than a hint that his team now have bigger fish to fry.
"While it has been a good campaign for us, the most pleasing aspect is that we have got several players back on board who had been out for long periods.
"We now have a divisional final ahead of us that will prove ideal preparation for the Ulster Championship," said McGuinness. "We have a big test against Derry ahead of us but first we will focus on the league decider against Monaghan."
Grimley's frustrations were ventilated in a sharp verbal brickbat directed at referee Kelly.
"There were certain decisions not given to us that had a major impact on this absolutely crucial game. In a week in which the GAA did a great deal with Sky Sports, I think that Sky would have done a runner on this kind of thing. It was terrible," declared the Armagh boss. "We were denied a blatant penalty and several other key decisions also were not given. These boys have put a massive effort into the league and they end up getting treated like this. It's extremely disappointing."
Yet he can take comfort from his team's spirit, commitment and incessant work-rate.
A blistering start that yielded four points in the opening six minutes, two each from Rory Kavanagh and Colm McFadden, suggested that Donegal would boss the contest but Armagh's ability to counter-attack sharply was underlined within a two-minute spell, during which Kyle Carragher and Aaron Kernan landed points.
Donegal, though, still carried a considerable threat and when McFadden was hauled down by Finian Moriarty in the 16th minute, Murphy swept home the resultant penalty to thrust his side into a 1-4 to 0-2 lead.
But when Jamie Clarke almost immediately wriggled his way in to stab the ball past Paul Durcan before tacking on a point, Armagh were very much back in business.
Donegal held a 1-5 to 1-3 lead at the break but three minutes into the second-half, Murphy pounced for their second goal and from then on they held the whip hand.
The introduction of Patrick McBrearty from the bench complemented Donegal's fire-power and his two spectacular points allied to another brace from McFadden saw McGuinness's men glide through the closing phase to copper-fasten their arrival at the top table.
Donegal: P Durcan; E McGee, N McGee, K Lacey; F McGlynn, L McLoone, A Thompson; R Kavanagh, M McElhinney; N Gallagher, C Toye, O MacNiallias; C McFadden, M Murphy, D Molloy. Subs: P McBrearty for Gallagher (47), D Walsh for Toye (55), R McHugh for Molloy (55), H McFadden for McElhinney (63), Declan Walsh for David Walsh (72). Yellow Card: McLoone (56). Black card: David Walsh (72).
Donegal scorers: M Murphy 2-0 (1-0 pen), C McFadden 0-6 (0-5 frees), R Kavanagh 0-2, P McBrearty 0-2.
Armagh: P McEvoy; M Murray, G McCooey, A Mallon; A Kernan,, K Toner, F Moriarty; S Harold, S Campbell; C Vernon, K Dyas, E McVerry; J Clarke, T Kernan, K Carragher. Subs: A Findon for A Kernan (49), E Rafferty for Dyas (51), R Grugan for McCooey (52), R Tasker for Clarke (66). Yellow cards: Harold (32).
Armagh scorers: J Clarke 1-1, T Kernan 0-3, (1 '45', 2f), G McCooey 0-1, K Carragher 0-1, A Kernan 0-1, R Tasker 0-1.
Referee: Fergal Kelly (Longford).