Donegal win Ulster as Armagh shootout woes go on

Donegal clinched a dramatic Ulster Football Championship triumph as Armagh's penalty shootout hoodoo continued.

After the game had finished 0-20 to 0-20 after extra time before an enthralled capacity 28,896 attendance at Clones, the penalty shootout also went to sudden death as Shaun Patton's save to deny Shane McPartlan clinched a 6-5 victory.

Armagh looked set to end their 16-year barren spell in Ulster as a Stefan Campbell point put them 0-15 to 0-11 ahead after 53 minutes of normal time.

But the Orchard men seemed to make the mistake of looking for the finishing line which allowed Donegal to draw level by the 64th minute as Patrick McBrearty completed a run of four straight points by Jim McGuinness' side.

Armagh sub Tiernan Kelly had a last-ditch free chance from 40 metres to clinch victory but pulled his effort wide which meant two 10-minute periods of extra time.

Kieran McGeeney's Armagh side led 0-18 to 0-17 after the opening period of extra time and they looked likely winners as a towering Oisin O'Neill score and Aidan Nugent point put them 0-20 to 0-18 ahead with six minutes remaining.

But a Dara O Baoill score a minute later cut Donegal's lead and after Oisin Conaty missed a chance to restore a two-point Armagh advantage, an Odhran Doherty effort ensured extra time.

Substitute McPartlan hit Armagh's first penalty and was handed the responsibility again in sudden death with the score at 6-5 after 11 successful efforts but Donegal keeper Patton spread himself to make a comfortable save to his right as the Orchard men suffered a fourth championship shootout defeat in three seasons.

Donegal continue rejuvenation under McGuinness

Armagh went into the provincial decider seeking a first Anglo-Celt Cup triumph in 16 years - an eternity for a county who lifted seven out of 10 provincial titles between 1999 and 2008.

The agonising penalty shootout defeat by Derry 12 months ago also meant that Kieran McGeeney - the longest serving GAA senior inter-county manager - had gone into his 10th season in charge still seeking the first piece of silverware of his reign.

Donegal, meanwhile, were back in an Ulster Final following the remarkable rejuvenation inspired by the return of McGuinness following their annus horribilis of 2023.

The Tir Chonaill men's successful Division Two campaign included two tight jousts with Armagh as the sides drew at the Athletic Grounds in February before Donegal edged a one-point victory at Croke Park in the divisional final.

McGuinness' side then started their championship campaign with a stunning 4-11 to 0-17 victory over three-in-a-row seeking Derry before needing extra time to battle past Tyrone in the semi-final.

The seemingly lopsided nature of the Ulster draw had marked Armagh as strong favourites to make it back to a second successive provincial final but after outclassing Fermanagh 3-11 to 0-9 at Enniskillen, the Orchard men were fortunate to battle past Down 0-13 to 2-6 in their semi-final.

More to follow.

Armagh: B Hughes; P Burns, A McKay, P McGrane; J McElroy, Ciaran Mackin, A Forker; R O'Neill, B Crealey; S Campbell, R Grugan, G McCabe; O Conaty, A Murnin, C Turbitt.

Subs: J Og Burns for McCabe 61, T Kelly for Forker 70, J Duffy for McElroy ET, O O'Neill for Crealey 65, A Nugent for Turbitt 67, J Hall for McGrane 78, S McPartlan for Mackin 80

Donegal: S Patton; M Curran, B McCole, C Moore; R McHugh, C McGonagle, P Mogan; J McGee, M Langan; S O’Donnell, C Thompson, D O Baoill; E Ban Gallagher, O Gallen, N O’Donnell.

Subs: O Doherty for Gallen ET, J MacCeallabhui for Thompson 67, C McColgan for Curran HT, J Brennan for Gallagher 55, A Doherty for O Baoill 44, P McBrearty for Moore 41, O Baoill for N O'Donnell 81, Thompson for McBrearty 87