Donegal’s championship ambitions are over for another year after they suffered an All-Ireland quarter-final hammering by Cork in Dr. Hyde Park, Roscommon, on Saturday afternoon.
Donegal, who lined out without scoring ace Geraldine McLaughlin and her sister Nicole from the side that defeated Kildare in the Qualifiers, were no match for the reigning All-Ireland champions.
The game, which was always going to be a tough test for the girls from the north west, was over as a contest from very early on. Once the Rebelettes posted two goals in the opening four minutes the writing was on the wall.
And with Cork leading 3-12 to 0-2 at half-time and the gulf in class glaringly obviously, the second half was a painful experience for the Donegal girls and their manager Michael Naughton.
Donegal got off to a nightmare start with Cork bagging two goals in the opening four minutes. Nollaig Cleary hit the first inside 40 seconds when she rounded Niamh Mailey and three minutes later Ciara O’Sullivan punished slack marking in the Donegal defence later to net Cork’s second three pointer.
In between Rosin Friel kicked a fine point under pressure for Donegal, but with the Munster champions dominating and winning all the key battles the scores continued to flow at the other end.
Juliette Murphy, Annie Wlash, O’Sullivan and Cleary all landed points before Cleary struck for Cork’s third goal in the opening seconds of the second quarter.
Cleary pouncing after Niamh Mailey failed to hold on to a long ball into the Donegal goalmouth and when Mailey spilled possesion the Cork number 13 was on hand to tap home.
With the Rebelettes dominating and Donegal losing Ciara D Shovlin to injury following a collision with Rosin Curran, Murphy and Valerie Mulcahy (2) extended the Cork lead out to 16 points, 3-8 to 0-1.
Kate Keaney kicked a fine point for Donegal on 24 minutes after some good individual play from the Four Masters woman. But it was only a brief respite as the Leesiders continued to pile on the misery.
And courtesy of further points from Laura McMahon, Mulcahy (2) and Cleary they went in 3-12 to 0-2 up at half-time.
Indeed, but for Niamh Mailey and Orlagh Carr, it could have been worse at the break for the Ulster girls as they combined to deny Cork a fourth goal before half-time.
It didn’t get any better for Donegal in the second period as Cork, now playing with the aid of a stiff breeze, continued to dominate. And it soon turned into a day to forget for the Donegal ladies and their loyal band of supporters that made the trip to Roscommon, as Cork begun the second half as they did the fist with two quick fire goals.
Rhona Buckley, with her first touch after being introduced for the second half, struck for the first of the three pointers within five minutes of the restart. Buckley took advantage when Niamh Mailey lost possession in her own area and Valerie Mulcahy added the second from the penalty spot shortly afterwards to extend the Cork lead out to 28 points, 5-15 to 0-2.
Any chance of Donegal maintaining respectively went with those two goals and despite the best efforts of Aoife McDonnell, Karen Gurhrie, Orlagh Carr, it was all Cork for the remainder of the half.
With the Donegal girls out on their feet and the heads down the Rebelettes showed no mercy in the closing quarter-hour with Buckley and Doireann O’Sullivan bidding to stake a claim in the starting 15 the Munster champions added three more goals and 11 more points as they completed the rout in some style as Donegal failed to raise a single flag in the second period.
O’Sullivan struck for two of those goals with player of the match Cleary scoring the other to bring her own personal tally to 3-5, while Buckley, O’Sullivan and Mulcahy kicked the points.
The manner of the defeat, more than the defeat itself, is a big setback to Donegal and is a stark reminder of the gulf in standard between the top teams and the rest of the pack.
Donegal: Niamh Mailey; Orlagh Carr, Kelly Wilson, Tara Khan; Aoife Watters, Grainne Houston, Therese McCafferty; Emer Gallagher, Aoife McDonnell; Kate Keaney (0-1), Roisin Friel (0-1), Karen Feeney; Rosin Curran, Karen Guthrie, Ciara D Shovlin. Subs: Roisin McCafferty for C. D Shovlin (10 inj); Rose Boyle for R. Curran (46); Orlagh Furlong for K Feeney (50); Brid McGinty for G. Houston (53).
Cork: Elaine Harte; Ann Marie Walsh, Briege Stack, Deirdre O’Reilly; Briege Corkery (1-0), Rena Buckley (0-1), Geraldine Flynn (0-1); Juliet Murphy (0-2), Norita Kelly; Laura McMahon (0-2), Ciara O’Sullivan, Annie Walsh (0-1); Nollaig Cleary (3-6), Valerie Mulcahy (1-9, 4f), Grace Kearney. Subs: Rhona Buckley (1-2), Doirean O’Sullivan (2-2), Aishling Barrett.
Referee: Gavin Corrigan (Down)
Player of the match
Cork’s Nollaig Cleary scored 3-6 in a player of the match performance on a day most of the top quality displays were in the red and white of Cork.
However, despite the odds being stacked against them Aoife McDonnell and Karen Guthrie battled from the first whistle to the last for Donegal, who also had good displays from Orlagh Carr and Kate Keaney.
Probably when the draw was made. Donegal were always up against it, without so many key players. Indeed, if all the absent players were available Donegal still would have their work cut out for them. Any chance that Donegal were even going to keep respectability went with those two Cork goals in the opening four minutes.
Down official Gavin Corrigan had an easy afternoon and got all the calls spot in what was a sporting contest.