Hurling & Camogie

Donegal too good for Armagh in Nickey Rackard opener

The home side faded after a fine start at the BOX-IT Athletic Grounds

Donegal manager Mickey McCann saw his side make a winning start. Picture Margaret McLaughlin (MARGARET McLAUGHLIN PICTURES / C)

Nickey Rackard Cup round one Armagh 1-12 Donegal 0-22

DONEGAL’S greater fitness and a five-star display by Liam McKinney combined to see off a resolute 14-man Armagh challenge in blustery conditions at The BOX-IT Athletic Grounds.

The home side had been buoyed by a fifth-minute goal from Alex O’Boyle and that score kept them in touch and they cut their opponents’ lead to a a mere two points on four occasions, though just lacked the necessary scoring power up front.

Donegal captain Conor Gartland got his side off to a good start with a point after two minutes but Armagh, with a swirling wind behind them, hit back with a point from full-back Paul Gaffney.

After Donegal had regained the lead, O’Boyle pounced to first-time the ball to the net and Gaffney immediately struck for his second point to put the home side into a 1-2 to 0-2 lead.

Gerard Gilmore and the elegant O’Boyle swapped a brace of points before the impressive Ruairi Campbell left the score at 1-4 to 0-5 by the 13tth minute.

But Armagh could only tack on two more scores in the run-up to the break as a fitter Donegal side took over.

The rangy McKinney made it 1-4 to 0-6 before another O’Boyle free increased the home side’s lead to 1-5 to 0-6.

Gilmore then landed a sublime sideline cut as McKinney and Campbell were finding space in the Orchard defence and landed points along with Gilmore to put Donegal into a 1-5 to 0-11 lead five minutes from the break.

The sides then exchanged braces of points in the run up to half-time with Gartland and Gilmore on target for Donegal and Joe O’Connor responding for Armagh.

The Tír Chonaill boys could have had a goal in the 25th minute but Kieran McKernan threw his body at a point-blank effort from Josh Cronolly McGee and the visitors led by 0-13 to 1-7 at the break.

Former Armagh player Declan Coulter announced his arrival with a fine point on the resumption, only for Aaron Fox to reply, but Armagh were struck a blow when sub Connor Renaghan, who was barely on the pitch, got a red card from referee Ciaran McCloskey for tugging on Conor Gartland’s helmet in a brief but unsavoury incident.

Armagh had chances but O’Boyle hit three wides on the spin and points from  McKinney and Gilmore pushed the winners to a 0-18 to 1-12 by the 60th minute.

Armagh hung in but late points from Sean Ward, Peter Kelly and McKinney saw them over the line.


Armagh A O’Boyle 1-6 (0-4f); P Gaffney & A Fox 0-2 each; C Duffy & J O’Connor 0-1 each

Donegal G Gilmoe 0-7 (0-4f); L McKinney 0-6; R Campbell & C Gartland 0-3 each;

D Coulter, P Kelly & S Ward 0-1 each

Nickey Rackard Cup round one

Roscommon 1-20 Louth 1-14; Armagh 1-12 Donegal 0-22; Mayo 4-24 Monaghan 2-8

Round two

Saturday, April 20 (2pm) Donegal v Mayo (O’Donnell Park); Monaghan v Roscommon (Inniskeen)

Sunday, April 21 Louth v Armagh (Dowdallshill, 2pm)