AFTER watching their male counterparts book their place in the Ulster decider on Saturday, the ladies of Donegal also travelled to St Tiernach’s Park on Sunday to see off the challenge of the same opposition and book their place in the final after a highly impressive display.
Despite not having a competitive game from early April Micheal Naughton’s side hit the ground running and led from start to finish against hot favourites Tyrone. The Red Hand county already had a game under their belt when they tasted defeat to Monaghan but had a second chance to make the final but simply had no answer to the rampant Donegal girls. From the outset Donegal were going about the job emphatically from defence to attack they were looking lively and a treat to watch.
Leading the way were the impressive duo of the ever reliable Geraldine McLaughlin and new kid on the block Roisin Curran who between them hit 2-14 of their side’s final tally, with Cloughaneely’s Curran the star of the opening period hitting 1-5 and McLaughlin lighting up the second period and finishing with 1-9 to her name with an exhibition of free-taking. At the back their defence was not unlike their male counterpart but breaking forward swiftly with McLaughlin and Curran the targets, playing an impressive brand of football as they moved from defence to attack.
However, hunger and determination was the real visible difference from the start and within a minute McLaughlin struck over a free to set Donegal on their way. By the 11th minute they had added three further efforts from Curran, Roisin Friel and McLaughlin. Tyrone got off the mark two minutes later but immediately at the other end McLaughlin found the roof of the net to open up a 1-4 to 0-1 advantage.
It was now we saw Curran really stamp her mark on the game and leading the Tyrone defence a merry dance as she added 1-4 to her sides score, the goal coming after great play and quick thinking from Friel. Tyrone did hit two points in that 12 minute Curran blistering spell but entering first half added time Donegal led 2-8 to 0-3.
That advantage was extended by wing half back Grainne Houston with a wonderful point from wide out near the sideline. However, on the stroke of the break Tyrone got a glimmer of hope after full-forward Lycrecia Quinn shot low past goalkeeper Niamh Mailey to trail 2-9 to 1-3 at the interval.
Tyrone came out fighting after the break but five wides in a row meant they failed to make any impact on the scoreboard. They were made pay for this at the other end as McLaughlin showed them how to do it with four in a row to stretch their lead. After that there was always only going to be one winner and as every minute passed the confidence grew in this talented young Donegal side.
The Red Hand county could only manage three second half points, two of which were to come in the final minutes of the game. McLaughlin went on to add a further three points while substitute Ciara Grant struck for their third major after a great pass from Friel to set her clear. Friel, herself almost got a goal immediately after but her effort was well saved by the Tyrone ‘keeper. Both sides had a player sent to the sin bin during that second period also with Tyrone’s Clare Scullion first to go 13 minutes from time and then in the dying minutes Donegal’s Orla Carr saw yellow.
Next up is a meeting with reigning champions and current league champions Monaghan in Clones on July 15. If Donegal can repeat this performance there is no doubt that they can give Monaghan plenty of problems.
Donegal: Niamh Mailey; Orla Carr, Kelly Wilson, Nicole McLaughlin; Grainne Houston (0-1), Terese McCafferty, Aoife Watters; Aoife McDonald, Karen Guthrie; Kate Keeney, Roisin Friel (0-1), Karen Feeney; Roisin Curran (1-5, 0-2f), Geraldine McLaughlin (1-9, 0-7f), Ciara D Shovelin. Subs: Ciara Grant (1-0) for C D Shovelin, Emer Gallagher for A Watters, Breda McGinty for R Friel, Orla Furlong for K Feeney, Rose Boyle for R Curran.
Tyrone: Shannon Lynch; Maria Donnelly, Maura McMenamin, Tori McLaughlin; Clare Scullion, Carol Dooher, Joanne Donnelly; Nicola Sheering, Shannon Quinn; Gemma Begley, Cathriona McGahan, Cathy Donnelly (0-2); Joline Donnelly (0-3), Lycrecia Quinn (1-0), Orla O’Neill. Subs: Lynda Donnelly for M Donnelly, Nichola Donnelly (0-1) for O O’Neill, Fiona McCarney for M McMenamin, Chistiane Hunter for J Donnelly.
Referee: Kieran McKeever (Armagh).