Donegal cruise into McKenna Cup final as Armagh crumble
Donegal 0-20 Armagh 1-10
Donegal produced a storming second half to outscore Armagh 11 points to four after the two sides were level at half-time.
In doing so, they booked a mid-February showdown against Tyrone that may carry plenty of meaning in the Dr McKenna Cup final.
Despite the game being played out by what really was two reserve teams there were a few things to admire. A number of players put themselves in the frame for the league and given the nature of these games, with debutants and fringe players eager to impress, there was an emphasis on quick delivery.
Young Eamon McGeown will come under consideration for Kieran McGeeney's league opener against Sligo this Sunday. He had a goal and two points from play inside 13 minutes, the goal, the third of these scores camer after he held off Stephen McMenamin to gather a long delivery at the second attempt. His initial shot was parried by goalkeeper Mark Anthony McGinley but rattled home.
"We got some performances, we had a lot of young under-20s there, they got a bit of experience," was Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney's assessment.
"A wee bit of inexperience cost us, giving the ball away and few wee mistakes.
"Donegal are strong, especially with that counter game, they just got away from us at the end. But it's probably not as bad as the scoreline suggests."
Declan Bonner would be the more satisfied manager, his young charges adhering to a house style of counter-attack, while in man of the match Nathan Mullins he definitely has poached a good one from under Dublin's noses.
"The first half was fairly tough," he stated afterwards.
"We were put under pressure with the ball coming from Armagh and it cost us a fair bit.
"Once we came in at half-time we had a chat and ironed it out. I thought we played with more intensity and we moved the ball a lot quicker in the second half and I thought in the second half we looked pretty good."
Armagh opened brightly with the long ball into their full-forward line of McGeown and Oisín MacÍomhair paying dividends as they destroyed the Donegal full-back line, so much so that Caolan Ward was moved onto Sarsfields youngster McGeown, making his first start here for his county and showing that there will be life if they are without Jamie Clarke and Stefan Campbell.
However, once Donegal settled the call-carrying and aerial ability of Mullins was aided by the razor-sharp Paddy McBrearty, who left the field with eight points to his name and evidence that his game is developing all the time.
Looking ahead to the final against Tyrone, Bonner stated, "It's a competitive match and it is good to get that, it's a north-west derby and it will be frantic stuff. We will see how the first three National League games go and then we turn our attention to that this evening in terms of Kerry."
But be under no illusion. Donegal have the following men to come back during the league; Michael Murphy, the three McHughs, Frank McGlynn, Paddy McGrath, Neil McGee, Michael Langan, Cian Mulligan, Eoin McHugh, Odhran MacNiallais and Jamie Brennan.
Armagh have Rory Grugan, Charlie Vernon, Aidan Forker, Mark Shields, Andrew Murnin, Gavin McParland, Paul Hughes, Ethan Rafferty and Ben Crealey.
This game was mere shadow-boxing.
ARMAGH: P Morrison; J McAlinden, O Lappin, J Cosgrove; J McElroy, R Kennedy, D McKenna; A Findon, S Sheridan 0-1; R Lappin, A Duffy, C White 0-1; M Stevenson 0-3, 1x'45', E McGeown 1-3, 1f, O MacÍomhair 0-1
Subs: R McQuillan for Cosgrove, R Owens for Sheridan, both h-time, E English 0-1 for White 50 mins, C McGeary for McKenna 50 mins, D McQuade for R Lappin 56mins, S McCoy for MacÍomhair 60 mins
DONEGAL: MA McGinley; P Brennan, S McMenamin, C Ward; EB Gallagher, L McLoone, T McCleneghan; J McGee, N Mullins 0-2; E Doherty, C Thompson 0-1, C McGonigle; P McBrearty 0-8, 3f, M O'Reilly, D O'Connor 0-3, 1f
Subs: N O'Donnell 0-3 for McCleneghan 34 mins, C McGinley for McMenamin h-time, S McBrearty 0-3 for Thompson 42mins, K McBrearty for J McGee 56mins, D O'Baoill for O'Reilly 64mins, B McCole for P McBrearty 67mins
Referee: Niall McKenna (Monaghan)