Sunday was a special day for Donegal Ladies football when the Termon Ladies created history by bringing home the Dolores Tyrrell Memorial Cup for the first time as All-Ireland champions.
Tuam Stadium may be a stadium from the distant past, but it has a homely feel and on Sunday it came alive around 2.45 p.m. when the Termon Ladies came out to play.
They had trooped to the dressing room at half-time behind by 0-10 to 1-3 and the four point deficit didn’t flatter the Mourneabbey girls from Cork, who had ruled the roost against an out of sorts Termon. Indeed, but for an excellent finish by Geraldine McLaughlin and some good goalkeeping by Laura Gallagher, the margin could have been a mountain too high.
But once the whistle went for the second half, Termon were a different side. They went on to put on one of the best halves of football ever witnessed from a Donegal side, and Geraldine McLaughlin produced an individual display which will rank as one the great individual displays at any level.
Having witnessed her have a hand in all 14 scores (3-11) in the semi-final against Clonberne two weeks earlier (some 15 miles out the road from Tuam Stadium), she was again involved in every score of the 3-12 recorded by Termon on Sunday. This time however, she accounted for 3-8 of the total, while she hit 2-3 in the semi-final. Being involved in all 29 scores in the semi-final and final must be a record that will never ever be equalled.
It was a day when the Termon support were at their best. They were there in big numbers. There was a little panic early on when the public address announced that a Donegal reg car had left the windows down. The no. seemed very similar to big Noel Toye’s car, but Noel was not in Tuam!
The second half had just started when I got a call from Brian McEniff, who was in transit to Galway, but just outside Tuam, and he stopped off to witness part of history.
There is something about Ladies football that makes it such a great spectacle. There is nothing ‘soft’ out on the field as the tackles are as fierce as any game. When Geraldine McLaughlin came out the field with two minutes to go and demanded the ball, she showed remarkable maturity in holding up the ball, but some of the Cork girls took exception and gave her some rough treatment. Her response was so controlled, it was unbelievable; not even thinking of retaliation, but just ready to get on with the game and find a colleague from a free.
Apart from the individual scores which she worked from almost impossible positions, her pass to Roisin Friel for the goal chance midway through the second half was perfection. She is not just a good individual player but a very good team player.
It was fitting that Geraldine was close to manager, Francie Friel, when the final whistle went. This Termon team have flourished under Friel’s direction and he left no stone unturned in giving his side the belief that they could be the best in Ireland.
It probably was something of a surprise when the awards list for the annual GAA Co. Banquet were revealed this week and the Player of the Year award did not go to a Termon player.
Even at this stage, it would be a nice gesture by Donegal GAA bosses to invite Francie Friel and Geraldine McLaughlin as well as the Dolores Tyrrell Memorial Cup to be special guests on Saturday night in the Abbey Hotel. It would be no more than they deserve!