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Armagh crash out of Ulster Championship after defeat to Donegal

Kieran McGeeney. Pic by John Merry

Armagh 0-08 Donegal 2-11

Armagh will have to settle for the All-Ireland Qualifiers after taking a comprehensive beating from Donegal at the Athletic Grounds.

Kieran McGeeney’s men had their Ulster campaign effectively halted after 12 minutes of this game as the 2012 All-Ireland champions ran riot.

The hosts got off to the worst possible start, conceding a goal after just three minutes of the throw-in.

Patrick McBrearty, getting the better of James Morgan, latched on to a high ball inside. His initial effort was well saved by Michael McNeice, but the Armagh goalkeeper’s outstretched right leg couldn’t keep out the rebound.

Neil Gallagher, Michael Murphy and Martin McElhinney added another three points before Aaron Findon registered for the hosts on 14 minutes. A long shot from Ethan Rafferty fell short but it was a bit of ingenuity from Findon who opted to fist the ball over his head and between the posts.

Within a minute of that, Donegal’s Odhran MacNiallais had cancelled out that Armagh score with a fine effort with the left foot, out on the right.

Michael Murphy tagged on a further two scores with mammoth efforts from the deadball – both beyond the 45-yard line.

McBrearty continued the onslaught before Tony Kernan doubled Armagh’s tally on 28 minutes with a effort with the outside of his right boot.

Four minutes later Karl Lacey found himself in acres of space, knocking over with ease to extend Donegal’s lead to nine points.

Caolan Rafferty had a number of chances to pull one back before the break but it was Murphy – the Donegal talisman – who had the last say of the half with a stunning free from 55-plus yards.

If Kieran McGeeney’s men were going to get back into the game, their chance came just after the restart. Jamie Clarke broke through a sturdy Donegal defence and his low shot beat the ‘keeper down to his left but it didn’t beat the post. The resulting rebound fell kindly to Stefan Campbell whose first time effort hit the side netting – indicative of Armagh’s day.

The hosts did hit first in second half with Ciaran McKeever marauding up the right wing, breaking the tackle of Ryan McHugh, to stroke over on 43 minutes.

However, the game was effectively over as a contest two minutes later when Martin O’Reilly broke through to round the the Armagh ‘keeper and slot into an empty net.

Caolan Rafferty, Ethan Rafferty and Tony Kernan cancelled that goal out with three subsequent scores over the next seven minutes.

Murphy added another free for Donegal to extend the visitor’s lead by 10 before Morgan weaved through to blast over a minute later.

Armagh had another goal chance but Paul Durkin came to Donegal’s rescue, saving brilliantly from substitute Ciaran O’Hanlon.

Tony Kernan got his third point of the game with another great effort with the outside of the right.

MacNiallais added a point late on for Donegal who saw the came out at a canter.

Armagh will now play the losers of Meath/Wicklow, which is being played today.

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