Armagh got their Nicky Rackard campaign off to a winning start on Saturday, but they were made to battle right to the end against a dogged Donegal side.
Armagh got off to a flyer with points from Conor Corvan from play and Nathan Curry from a long range free, before Cahal Carvill finished a great solo run by blasting to the net in the opening five minutes. Donegal number 2 Pauric Doherty hit the opening score for the visitors but Peter McKearney responded immediately. Armagh seemed to be in control, with Donegal living off scraps but they managed to draw level with Lee Henderson converting a free before Seán McVeigh got a scrappy goal, the first of three by the corner forward. Danny Cullen quickly followed up to bring the sides level, but the stalemate was briefly lived as Middletown trio David Carvill, Ryan Gaffney from the dead ball and Cahal Carvill pushed the home side back ahead. Seán McVeigh added to his tally with a point, while Ryan Gaffney hit two further frees, but Donegal were determined to ask questions of the rearguard and it was that man McVeigh again who hit the second three pointer to cut the score difference to a solitary point. Gaffney and McVeigh again traded scores, and Armagh opened up a three point advantage with good scores from team captain, Cahal Carvill and Peter McKearney. Donegal’s Lee Henderson got on the scoresheet with a converted free, but a super effort from McKearney on the far wing and another free from Ryan Gaffney ensured the Orchard went in in front at half time.
Leath ama: Ard Mhacha 1-14 Dún na nGall 2-6
The second half began with both teams feeling the pressure after their respective half time talks and a number of wides from Donegal didn’t help their cause. Bernard Lafferty got the second half scoring underway seven minutes in and with Donegal on another attack, Ciarán Clifford intercepted and cleared as far as Cahal Carvill who fed the ball through to James King and with Conor Corvan running through, the Armagh 15 blasted home to put Armagh 2-14 to 2-7 ahead. Two further points from David Carvill, one a super effort from the wing, had Armagh nine ahead, but they couldn’t push on from then. Lafferty and Henderson converted for the visitors and with a long, high ball coming in around the square, Seán McVeigh provided the flick to beat Armagh keeper Simon Doherty for the third time to give the visitors hope of causing an upset with 15 minutes to go. Gaffney and Henderson traded converted frees and Conor Corvan hit a great score after good work from the impressive Peter McKearney. A Seán McVeigh effort was adjudged to have gone over the bar, in spite of the protests of Simon Doherty and the Armagh defence and further points from Ciaran Mathewson and Lee Henderson led to a nervy finish with just two minutes remaining. With seconds remaining, Ryan Gaffney, who had just returned to the field having received treatment for a blood injury, showed his composure to convert a free and ensure Armagh’s passage to a second round tie away to Mayo.
Scór deiridh: Ard Mhacha 2-19 Dún na nGall 3-13
Ard Mhacha: Simon Doherty, Ciarán Clifford, Artie McGuinness, Kieran McKernan, Shea Gaffney, Nathan Curry 0-1 (0-1 f), Connor Devlin, John Corvan, Stephen Renaghan, Peter McKearney 0-3, Cahal Carvill 1-2, David Carvill 0-3, James King, Ryan Gaffney 0-8 (0-5 f, 0-2 65), Conor Corvan 1-2
Subs used: Pauric Hughes for Connor Devlin, Paddy McGrane for Stephen Renaghan, Liam Woods for James King
Blood sub: Dylan McKenna for Ryan Gaffney
Dún na nGall: Paul Burns, Pauric Doherty 0-1, Justin McGhee, Shane Gallen, Jack O’Loughlin, Jamesie Donnelly, Niall Cleary, Paul Sheridan, Christopher McDermott, Lee Henderson 0-4 (0-3 f), Danny Cullen 0-1, Bernard Lafferty 0-2, Ciaran Mathewson 0-1, Paddy Hannigan, Seán McVeigh 3-3
Subs used: Ronan McDermott for Jamesie Donnelly, Sam Doherty for Paul Sheridan