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Donegal and Tyrone secure semi-final slots after dramatic shift in fortunes

Armagh and Monaghan are in relegation play-offs following comebacks from their Ulster rivals in tonight’s NFL games.

Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

DONEGAL 1-16; ARMAGH 1-16

TYRONE 0-14; MONAGHAN 0-14

ON A DRAMATIC night in Division 1 north, Paddy McBrearty inspired Donegal to climb out of the grave and reach the NFL semi-finals after this come-from-behind draw with Armagh.

For Kieran McGeeney’s side, the shift in their fortunes was scarcely believable. At one stage, nearing 9pm, they were set to top the table and secure a semi-final spot. Instead they are in a relegation play-off along with Monaghan, Roscommon and one of Dublin, Kerry or Galway.

Those latter four sides play tomorrow, Galway needing a win against Dublin to emerge from Division 1 south and reach the semi-finals.

Should either Kerry or Donegal go on to reach the National League final – scheduled for the weekend of June 19/20 then that game will not be played as both counties have a championship fixture the following week.

That’s another day’s conversation. Tonight produced enough talking points.

Trailing by five points early on – later by four with just 13 minutes remaining, Donegal just refused to lie down and lose. McBrearty was their leader yet he had company, Michael Langan getting a crucial goal for the 2012 All-Ireland champions, while Conor O’Donnell and Niall O’Donnell also contributed big scores.

For Armagh, fatigue became an issue. They’d played well throughout – and in Stefan Campbell they had one of the game’s leading players – but no matter how often they nipped in front, Donegal kept coming back at them.

stefan-campbell-celebrates-scoring-a-point Stefan Campbell excelled for Armagh. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

After a quarter of the game it was 0-6 to 0-1; at half-time it was 0-10 to 0-6 and when Tiarnan Kelly scored Armagh’s goal on 57 minutes, there were four points between them.

There and then, it looked as though Armagh would make the semis. They needed a win to do so; a draw would not be enough.

But a draw was what they ended up with as Donegal outpointed Armagh by five points to one in the closing stages – McBrearty (2), Ward, Thompson and Niall O’Donnell with their scores in this critical period, Jemar Hall with Armagh’s as the game finished 1-16 to 1-16.

Meanwhile, another crunch game was occurring between Monaghan and Tyrone, Darren McCurry and Conor McManus exchanging early points in this one before McCurry (2) and Paul Donaghy extended Tyrone’s lead – before McManus and goalkeeper Rory Beggan closed the gap from three points to one.

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Beggan would go on to make two crucial saves – one from McCurry in the first half, another from Darragh Canavan in the second – as well as getting on the scoresheet again from a 45.

The tide kept turning. Tyrone would lead 0-7 to 0-4 on 35 minutes and then trail 0-9 to 0-7 early in the second half – McManus inevitably doing some of the damage, assisted by Dessie Ward and Stephen O’Hanlon.

Ronan McNamee and Canavan got Tyrone motoring again; Burns and Jack McCarron exchanged scores, Beggan put Monaghan a point clear with 12 minutes remaining before McManus and Stephen O’Hanlon extended the lead to three.

Back came Tyrone, Kieran McGeary, McCurry and McKenna getting three in a row for them before Matty Donnelly put them one in front.

Then with the last kick of the game Ryan McAnespie got the equaliser, Monaghan drawing 0-14 to 0-14 – a fine result but not a good enough one to get them into the semis. Tyrone make it there, Monaghan forced to contest a relegation play-off.

About the author:

Garry Doyle

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