The Donegal U-16 girls fell just short of lifting the Ulster crown when they went down by just one point after extra-time in the Ulster final in Garrison on Saturday afternoon.
It was heartbreak for the Donegal girls who felt that the game ended in a draw after miscalculating their position in the final minutes. Sarah Jane McDonald tapped over for what they she was the leveller with time almost up, but the girls were devastated when the final whistle went and the Tyrone girls were celebrating.
The girls certainly deserved another chance as they gave everything in this game which was played in some of the worst playing conditions imaginable - driving wind and rain. The supporters of both sides were glad that there was a covered stand available at the Devenish grounds.
Donegal had to play against the elements in the opening half and they looked in a strong position when they turned over behind by 2-8 to 1-3, such was the strength of the wind and rain.
Tyrone seemed to be in control when they led by 2-5 to 0-1 after 20 minutes, the goals from Grainne Rafferty from the penalty spot and Hannah Lydon while Rafferty and Lydon also shared four points and Niamh O’Neill also found the range.
Donegal’s lone point at that stage was from a Caroline Sharkey free, but they were very unlucky in the opening half, hitting a post on at least two occasions.
Sharkey had Donegal’s second point before Aine McLaughlin tore through the Tyrone defence late in the half on a 60m mazy run to find the net, and they were denied another goal minutes later by a great stop. They had further points from Sharkey and Amber Barrett while Niamh O’Neill had Tyrone’s last point of the half.
Donegal had the first four points of the second half through Sharkey, Barrett, Aine McLaughlin and Shannon McGroddy to reduce the margin to four.
O’Neill had a Tyrone point but further Donegal scores from Blathnaid McLaughlin and Barrett (free) had the margin down to three.
Tyrone hit back with a goal from Grainne Rafferty but Donegal responded with a great break and Caroline Sharkey found the Tyrone net followed by points from Kathy McLaughlin and two from Sarah Jane McDonald to bring the sides level with ten minutes left.
Tyrone responded with three points in the 55th, 56th and 57th minutes but seconds into added time a quick free from Sharkey found Erika Hanna to finish to the Tyrone net and send the game to extra time.
Like in normal time, Tyrone had advantage of the wind in the first period of extra time and seemed to have kicked their chance away with just a point from Siobhan Sherrin as half-time approached but then Melissa McCann fielded a free in front of the Donegal goal and hammed home a goal.
When Meabh Mallon added another point seconds into the second period, it was going to be an uphill struggle for Donegal but Caroline Sharkey and Kathy McLaughlin pulled points back only for Niamh O’Neill to stretch the advantage to four again.
Donegal hit back and Caoimhe McMenamin had a great goal chance but lost possession but points from Sharkey, McLaughlin and McDonald reduced the margin to the minimum with McDonald taking a point which she thought was the leveller when a goal chance was available.
But they fell just short. Amber Barrett played the full game but it was evident that she wasn’t fully fit.
The Donegal girls had some great performers not least Maeve Liston, who was magnificent at the heart of the Donegal defence. Sarah Jane McDonald, Erika Hanna, Caroline Sharkey, Shannon McGroddy, the midfield McLaughlins, Jade O’Donnell and Blathnaid McLaughlin also excelled.
Donegal: Sinead Hession; Erika Hanna (1-0), Maeve Liston, Gemma Glackin; Eimear Lafferty, Sarah Jane McDonald (0-3), Zaria Boyle; Aine McLaughlin (1-1), Kathy McLaughlin (0-3); Caroline Sharkey (1-5,1f), Blathnaid McLaughlin (0-1), Shannon McGroddy (0-1); Orla McAteer, Amber Barrett (0-3,3f), Jade O’Donnell. Subs., Caoimhe McMenamin for McAteer 44; Nicole McDermott for Glackin 70; Aine Bradley for Z Boyle 75.
Tyrone: Laura Kane; Alicia McGoldrick, Edel Gray, Katy McGillion; Carla McCann, Ciara Fox, Niamh McElduff (1-0); Hannah Lydon(1-3), Melissa McCann (1-0); Grainne Rafferty (2-4,1-0 pen), Siobhan Sherrin (0-2), Emma Smyth; Aileen Tuoghey, Niamh O’Neill (0-5,2f), Niamh Brown. Subs., Lucy Arnold for McGoldrick 15; Eadaoin Fox for Rafferty 76.
Referee: Gerry Sheridan (Cavan)
“Very nervous watching from the sideline. We made an awful lot of mistakes, second to the ball a lot of the time, but it’s difficult to answer just after the final whistle,” was the reaction of Donegal manager, Kenny Griffin.
“It was very slippery out there. We gave away two early goals which shouldn’t have happened. It was a mighty game. I thought we were good enough to get a draw at the end but that’s the way things go,” said Kenny, who said that they thought the game was level on the sideline.
“They played their hearts out and gave everything. It was a game of two halves with the strong wind. It was one of those days,” said a dejected Griffin.