Armagh lose first championship game in four years

Donegal 1-9 Armagh 1-8

Donegal 1-9 Armagh 1-8

Substitute Brendan Devenney scored a late, late goal to give Donegal a sensational Ulster SFC win over defending champions Armagh at Ballybofey.

It was the Orchard county’s first defeat in a provincial championship game since 2003, but the manner of this reversal, to a freak goal in the dying moments, came as a bitter blow to Joe Kernan and his men.

Armagh succeeded in getting that old familiar intensity into their tackling, but when it came to finishing, the attack was off-colour.

Some bad misses robbed them of the opportunity to build up a wind-assisted lead, and half an hour had elapsed before Stephen McDonnell became the first Orchard attacker to score from play.

Donegal laboured in front of goal also, and relied heavily on Colm McFadden’s free-kicking, with wing back Paddy McConagley scoring a fine debut point.

Aaron Kernan, who had earlier pressed forward to shoot his side’s opening point, saved Armagh in the dying moments of the half with a superb interception to prevent Christy Toye’s cross from reaching Brian Roper.

The sides were level on three occasions before Toye, the only Tir Chonaill forward to hit the target from play, eased his side into a 0-5 to 0-4 interval lead.

Armagh started the second half with a much greater sense of purpose, going level with a wonderful point from Diarmuid Marsden, playing his fist championship game in more than two years.

And in the 42nd minute, McConville slotted home a goal, seizing onto the rebound to shoot low to the net after Paul Durcan had saved from Paddy McKeever.

And when veteran centre back Kieran McGeeney pressed forward to score, Armagh led by four.

Substitute Adrian Sweeney tried to kick-start the Donegal challenge with a mighty point, but McGeeney, Kernan, Brendan Donaghy and Enda McNulty held firm at the back for Joe Kernan’s side.

Nevertheless, McFadden’s sixth converted free set up a tight finish, leaving just two points between the sides.

And it was Devenney who emerged as the hero, the flight of his speculative lob deceiving Paul Hearty and dropping into the net with just a minute to play.

Donegal: P Durcan; N McGee, P Campbell, K Lacy, P McConagley (0-1), B Monaghan, B Dunnion, N Gallagher, K Cassidy, C Bonner, M Hegarty, C Toye (0-1), C McFadden (0-6, 6 frees), R Kavanagh, B Roper.

Subs: A Sweeney (0-1) for Roper, E McGee for Dunnion, K McMenamin for Bonner, B Devenney (1-0) for Hegarty

Armagh: P Hearty; E McNulty, B Donaghy, A Mallon, A Kernan (0-1), K McGeeney (0-1), C McKeever, C Toner, P McGrane, P McKeever, S Kernan (0-1), M O'Rourke, S McDonnell (0-2), D Marsden (0-1), O McConville (1-2 (2 frees).

Subs: M Mackin for O’Rourke

Referee: J Bannon (Longford).

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