The three-point win came courtesy of a strong second-half performance and the result consigns Paddy O’Rourke’s team to the second tier.
But it might have been so different had Jamie Clarke goaled in the closing stages instead of hitting the post with the sides level at 0-9 apiece.
“It definitely wasn’t a perfect performance,” Donegal boss Jim McGuinness said afterwards. “There were a lot of mistakes made but we showed a hunger, desire and determination and that is what got us over the line. The normal situation after kicking bad wides is that heads might go down, but this wasn’t the situation here. We asked them the question at half-time and their mentality and approach to the second half was brilliant. To be fair they delivered in spades.”
Without the injured Michael Murphy, the hosts’ chances were further hampered when they lost All Star full-back Neil McGee in the warm-up. And it was the visitors who took the early initiative with Michael Stevenson’s abilities from the placed ball forging a two-point interval advantage for Armagh (0-7 to 0-5). Stevenson popped over two more scores at the start of the second half before Donegal finally sprung to life.
Mark McHugh punched over to level matters before the woodwork got the better of Clarke after the Armagh corner-forward had rounded Paul Durcan in the Donegal goal. While Armagh bemoaned their misfortune, Rory Kavanagh edged Donegal in front in the closing stages and McFadden and substitute Adrian Hanlon helped them push their lead out to three. Going for broke, Armagh seized on a short kick-out from Durcan deep in stoppage time but John Kingham’s shot was blocked. Donegal had done enough. Just.
“They got on top and went on to win the game,” O’Rourke said “We were chasing the game for the last 10 minutes. We went out of the game for periods of the second half and never really got a grip on it again. We have a young panel of players and we have to get ready for the championship.”
Scorers for Donegal: C McFadden (0-5, 2f), R Kavanagh (0-2), F McGlynn, L McLoone, M McElhinney, D Molloy, M McHugh, A Hanlon (0-1 each) Scorers for Armagh: M Stevenson (0-7, 7f), B Donaghy, B Mallon, C McKeever (0-1 each) DONEGAL: P Durcan; F McGlynn, E McGee, Declan Walsh; A Thompson, K Lacey, L McLoone; R Kavanagh, N Gallagher; M McHugh, R Bradley, D McLaughlin; David Walsh, C McFadden, M McElhinney.
Subs: D Molloy for McLaughlin 27; P McBrearty for McElhinney 30; M O’Reilly for E McGee 59; S Griffin for McBrearty 69; A Hanlon (0-1) for McLoone 71.
ARMAGH: P McEvoy; A Mallon, B Donaghy, D McKenna; P Duffy, C McKeever, F Moriarty; A Kernan, C Vernon; B Mallon, J Clarke, A Duffy; M Stevenson, C Rafferty, K Dyas.
Subs: T Kernan for P Duffy ht; J Lavery for Moriarty 50; M O’Rourke for B Mallon 45; G McParland for Stevnson 58; J Kingham for T Kernan 69 Referee: C Reilly (Meath).