Donegal Ladies got their Division One league campaign off to the perfect start on Sunday, proving much too strong for Galway.
The game, originally fixed for Bundoran, was switched to Munday’s Field, Ballyshannon and the Donegal Ladies took full advantage of the perfect playing conditions.
Donegal survived a strong Galway start to power to the front midway through the half thanks to a goal finished by Niamh Hegarty and a second goal from Geraldine McLaughlin had them in control 2-7 to 1-5 at the break and they never looked back.
Geraldine McLaughlin hit the crossbar with a 20m free in th eopening minute before Galway took a four point lead with a great goal from Eileen Concannon and point from Lorna Joyce in the 5th and 6th minutes.
But slowly Aoife McDonnell and Karen Guthrie got a foothold in midfield and Ailish Ward (free) and Yvonne McMonaghle had points, both after very good moves. Anne Mare McDonagh and Geraldine McLaughlin traded frees before the first Donegal goal arrived on 15 minutes. Aoife McDonnell was at the fulcrum of the move with Yvonne McMonagle finding Geraldine McLaughlin. She cut in along the endline and fisted a pass across goal for Niamh Hegarty to collect and stab home from close range.
McMonagle added two frees before Geraldine McLaughlin had the second goal on 19 minutes. It came at the end of a move that started with ‘keeper Roisin McCafferty assuredly collecting a high ball at one end and the ball was worked through the field to McLaughlin, whose effort for goal was briefly stopped by the Galway ‘keeper but it trickled to the net.
Karen Guthrie added a brilliant point to open a 2-6 to 1-2 lead but Galway hit back with three points from Joyce, Mairead Coyne and McDonagh before Yvonne McMonagle had the last point of the half and leave Donegal 2-7 to 1-5 ahead at the break.
Caitriona Cormican had the first point of the second half for Galway but by the 42nd minute Donegal were in complete control, leading by 3-10 to 1-6. The points came from Niamh Hegarty, Ailish Ward (free) and Geraldine McLaughlin while the third goal came on 42 minutes, started by Ciara Hegarty and finished by goalscorer supreme Mclaughlin. Roisin McCafferty had made a great stop from Caitriona Cormican and Galway did pull two points back through Mairead Coyne and Tracey Leonard frees. Donegal kept the scoreboard ticking over through McMonagle points and in the final minutes Kate Keaney found Geraldine McLaughlin for the Termon girl to power home the fourth goal and a deserved win.
There were many top class performances for Donegal with Roisin McCafferty, Kelly Wilson, Ciara Hegarty, Aoife McDonnell, Karen Guthrie, Karen Feeney, Yvonne McMonagle and Geraldine McLaughlin outstanding.
New manager Eamonn O’Boyle used just one substitute, which was surprising given that the game was played at full tilt and in the closing stages there was an opportunity to blood some new talent.
But he will be very happy with the outcome, especially as he has nearly all of last year’s panel available. Even Diane McGly nn (Toner), who has hung up the boots, was on the sideline in an advisory capacity.
Donegal: Roisin McCafferty; Kelly Wilson, Tanya Kennedy, Niamh Friel; Grainne Houston, Ciara Hegarty, Deirdre Foley; Aoife McDonnell, Karen Guthrie (0-1); Roisin Friel, Niamh Hegarty (1-1), Karen Feeney; Ailish Ward (0-2,2f), Yvonne McMonagle (0-7,4f), Geraldine McLaughlin (3-2). Sub., Kate Keaney for Foley 22.
Galway: Tina Hughes; Sarah Noone, Eimear Flaherty, Sarah Lynch; Niamh Lohan, Rebecca McPhilbin, Caitriona Cormican (0-1); Aoibheann Daly, Deirdre Lawless; Anne Marie McDonagh (0-2,1f), Lorna Joyce (0-2), Sinead Burke; Eileen Concannon (1-0), Mairead Coyne (0-3,1f), Lisa Leonard. Subs., Tracey Leonard (0-2,2f) for Lawless 32; Nora Ward for Lynch 40; Barbara Hannon for L Leonard; Lucy Hannon for Joyce, both 43; Lisa Gannon for Lohan; Fabienne Looney for Daly, both 50; Clare Hehir for McDonagh 59.
Referee: John Niland (Sligo)
Player of the match
Those in contention were all in Donegal jerseys with Geraldine McLaughlin, Yvonne McMonagle, Karen Guthrie and Aoife McDonnell outstanding, but the award goes to centre-back Ciara Hegarty, who was a rock from start to finish for Donegal.
The goal from Niamh Hegarty on 15 minutes put Donegal in front for the first time and while Geraldine McLaughlin added a second four minutes later.
The first goal put Donegal on heir way and they never looked back after that, with Aoife McDonnell and Karen Guthrie on top form.
Sligo referee John Niland was helped by two teams who were intent on playing football and he had a very good game, on top of all the action and using common sense when needed.
He didn’t have to produce one card over the hour, which was a telling factor.