Donegal’ dream of a Division Two National League title and top flight football next season ended in bitter disappointment with defeat to Armagh in the league final on Saturday in Parnell Park.
The 12-point loss was a bitter pill for the Donegal girls who topped the Division Two table at the end of the league series and had taken a nine game unbeaten run into the final.
That run included a narrow one point, 1-11 to 1-10 victory over Armagh, in their second league game in Glenfin.
But it was not as close this time as the Orchard County outfit were much the better side and in corner forward Aimee Mackin, they had a class player.
Mackin scored two of the Armagh goals with simply sublime touches. She scored both goals in the first half and set up her side’s other first half three-pointer for Fionnuala McKenna.
Mackin also posted five points and along with McKenna, they bamboozled the Donegal last line, time and again in the first half. The Donegal management were naive to leave their fullback line exposed by not playing a sweeper back in front of the two Armagh danger-women.
In fairness, Kate Keaney and Treasa Doherty, when introduced at half time, did tighten up in this department and Mackin and McKenna, who hit 3-5 out of 3-10 in the first half hour, only managed 1-2 between them in the second half.
The problem was that the damage was done in the first half as Armagh led by ten points, 3-10 to 2-3.
This was against the backdrop of Donegal getting off to a flying start with a goal inside 40 seconds when Yvonne McMonagle drove to the Armagh net after Eilish Ward’s initial shot was blocked on the Armagh line. Armagh, however, soon began to show their class and within five minutes they had Donegal reeled in with points from Kelly Mallon (2) and the elusive Jamie Mackin.
Niamh Hegarty, on six minutes did restore Donegal’s lead, but when Mackin slipped the clutches of Emer Gallagher and placed the ball wide of Laura Gallagher, Armagh were 1-3 to 1-1 in front.
Donegal were on the back foot in a big way at this stage and only for the individual efforts of Katy Herron, who had fine game in the middle of the field throughout, Niamh McLaughlin, attacking from wing back, and Shannon McGroddy foraging far and wide, it could have been a lot worse.
McGroddy was desperately unlucky to see her driving shot skim the crossbar after a penetrating run from McLaughlin.
This was one of a number of first half goal chances missed by Donegal. The other two fell to Amber Barrett who was denied by a top class save from Katie Daly, the Armagh keeper, from point blank range.
And Barrett also drove over late in the half when a goal was on.
Armagh on the other hand were clinical when presented with goal chances, none more so than when they hit their second when Mackin found McKenna beat Laura Gallagher.
That was on 14 minutes and the goal opened up a 2-5 to 1-2 lead. The Orchard girls stretched that lead out to eight points before Amber Barrett struck Donegal’s third point on 25 minutes.
It looked as if Geraldine McLaughlin had thrown Donegal a lifeline on the half hour mark when she hit Donegal’s second after quick thinking from Niamh McLaughlin.
But Mackin had Donegal reeling again in injury time as she scored 1-1 to send her side in ten up at the break.
Armagh posted three points to Donegal’s one in the opening six minutes of the new half before Donegal enjoyed their best spell with Yvonne McMonagle pouncing for her second goal and Aoife McDonnell and Geraldine McLaughling knocking over points.
Withe the margin down to six again, there was a ray of hope for Donegal. But that was as good as it got for Davy McLaughlin and his girls. Armagh took control again with McKenna’s second goal and Armagh’s fourth, seven minutes from time, the final dagger.
Geraldine McLaughlin plundered a late goal for Donegal but it was a mere consolation score as Armagh closed out the game with four late points.
Donegal: L Gallagher; D Foley, E Gallagher, N McLaughlin; A McDonnell (0-1), C Hegarty, N McLaughlin; K Herron, R Curran; E Ward, N Hegarty (0-1), S McGroddy (0-1); A Barrett (0-1), Y McMonagle (2-0), G McLaughlin (2-2,1f). Subs: R Boyle for R Curran (19); T Doherty for E Ward, Kate Keaney for N McLaughlin (both at h/t); Emma McCrory for E Ward (42).
Armagh: K Daly; M Tennyson, C Morgan, S Marley; S Reel, S McCleary, N Marley; C Malone (0-1), C O’Hanlon (0-2); A McCoy (0-1), K Mallon (0-5, 2f), L Kenny; L McConville (0-2), F McKenna (2-2), A Mackin (2-5) . Subs: M McAlinden for F McKenna (54); T McCoy for N Marley (55).
Referee: G Carmody (Mayo).