Armagh have secured the Bank of Ireland Ulster Football Final in Clones today on a scoreline of 1-14 to 1-10 but missed opportunities will haunt opponents Donegal for some time to come. A goal within the opening three minutes from John McEntee sent Armagh on their way but Donegal never gave up and fought back in the second-half when five points behind to net through Jim McGuinness and put themselves back in the reckoning. However, Armagh answered that goal with three vital points to keep themselves just enough ahead of Donegal to secure the title.
It all started so brilliantly for Armagh when McEntee fired them into the lead in the third minute. A misunderstanding between Donegal keeper Tony Blake and one of his backs allowed McEntee to pounce when the ball came back off the crossbar and he fired home from close-range. However, Donegal didn't let that bad start get them down and four points from Adrian Sweeney, Paul McGonigle and Christy Toye with two put them level with Armagh at 1-01 to 0-04 with 13 minutes on the clock.
However, Armagh began to take control and Donegal failed to score for another 13 minutes, missing several good chances by shooting wide. Armagh incresed their tally through Ronan Clarke, Diarmuid Marsden, Oisin McConville and Aidan O'Rourke. By half-time, the scoreline stood at 1-06 to 0-06 with McEntee's goal the difference between the two sides.
In the second-half, Steven McDonnell fired Armagh further ahead before McConville increased his personal tally to three points. Donegal scored their first point of the second-half through Brendan Devenney on 43 minutes but several chances went begging as Donegal's free-taking, particularly in the second-half left a lot to be desired.
With Armagh five points ahead at 1-11 to 0-09 and looking comfortable, Donegal benefitted from their willingness to battle hard when McGuinness produced some brilliant skill before firing the ball low and hard into the back of the net. Now only two points separated the sides with ten minutes remaining but in those final minutes Armagh proved themselves worthy champions by answering McGuinness' strike with points from McConville - his fifth of the game - and Clarke either side of a free from Devenney to give themselves some vital breathing space. An injury-time point from McDonnell increased their advantage to four and it was enough to see them through to the final whistle.
Filed by Amanda Fennelly