THE contrast between winning and losing couldn’t have been greater on a balmy afternoon in Crossmaglen when the precocious Jamie Clarke again worked his own kind of magic with two early goals that effectively killed the game stone dead.
When Armagh crashed out of the Ulster championship to Monaghan in Casement Park, manager Paddy O’Rourke was left to put his own perspective on a 12-point humiliation.
This time he was left to reflect on how his side had refocused within days of that debacle.
“We were all very hurt and disappointed with our display against Monaghan,” he said.
“The boys themselves knew it was far from being a true reflection of the quality and ability within the squad.
“We all sat down the Monday night after the Monaghan game and made a commitment that all would be put right against Donegal.
“And don’t forget we came into this game short five or six of our first 16 or 17 players and losing midfielder Kieran Toner 15 minutes before the start was a major blow.”
O’Rourke agreed he was happy enough with the overall performance but agreed there is much room for improvement.
“We always knew Jamie Clarke was a class player and he certainly made the most of playing on his home pitch and the same was true of Francis Hanratty who started in the absence of Kieran Toner and never looked out of place,” he said.
Armagh will return to the All Ireland football qualifiers on Saturday week and by then manager O’Rourke hopes to have Brian Mallon back after suspension as well as midfielders Toner and James Lavery available again after injury.
It can be argued that the Orchard County beat a very limited Donegal side, but a win of any description was a priority after the Monaghan humiliation.
In addition to Clarke and Hanratty, Gareth Swift had his best game in an Armagh jersey while full back Brendan Donaghy was again at his imperious best.
Steven McDonnell, for once overshadowed by Clarke, said: “We were always mindful that we beat Donegal by 16 points in the league and that had beaten them in the Championship so were prepared for a reaction of some sort but the two early goals put paid to that.”
ARMAGH: P Hearty, A Mallon, B Donaghy, V Martin; P Duffy,0-1 C McKeever, K Dyas; C Vernon 0-1, F Hanratty, A Duffy, A Kernan 0-3, M Mackin, G Swift 0-3, S McDonnell 0-3, J Clarke 2-2. Subs: J Feeney 0-2 for A Duffy, P McKeown for A Mallon.
DONEGAL: P Durcan, P McGrath, N McGee, K Lacey; M Maguire, B Dunnion, F McGlynn, N Gallagher 0-1, K Cassidy; M McHugh 0-1, R Kavanagh, D Walsh; C McFadden 0-1, M Murphy 0-7, C Dunne. Subs: A Hanlon for C McFadden, E Wade for P McGrath, E McGee for M Maguire.
Referee M Duffy (Sligo).