A fitter and feistier Armagh side deservedly disposed of Donegal in a hard fought Ladies Ulster championship clash in Lisnaskea yesterday evening.
For the winners, centre-forward Fionnuala McKenna was simply majestic, and finished with a stunning tally of 0-9 with five of those coming from placed balls.
But the superior Armagh side also had a splendid match-winner in classy midfielder Caroline O’Hanlon who hit a very crucial goal for the Orchard girls to put them into a 1-8 to 1-5 lead in the 35th minute after Donegal turned over with a narrow 1-5 to 0-7 half-time lead.
But all hopes of a Tir Chonaill victory evaporated when their talismanic Termon striker Geraldine McLaughlin was sent to the sin bin on a yellow card after a tackle on Armagh’s full-back Caoimhe Morgan in the 51st minute.
McLaughlin was desperately unlucky to see a goal-bound shot brilliantly turned over the bar by Arnagh defender Mairead Tennyson two minutes before her unfortunate departure.
Although she was double-teamed for most of the match, the Termon star was still able to make a sold contribution as she recovers from a serious knee injury.
McLaughlin, Niamh McLaughlin and Karen Guthrie were Donegal’s main threat up front but the supply was gradually cut off as Armagh grew in confidence after a sluggish start.
Tir Chonaill had the perfect start when Karen Guthrie chased down a loose ball deep inside the Armagh defence and stayed ice cool before finishing soccer style to the net after just three minutes.
But a doughty Armagh side refused to panic and played themselves patiently back into contention.
Wing-forward Aoife McCoy was a key figure for the Orchard girls in this period and arced over some fine points to keep her county firmly in touch.
McCoy, McKenna and Kelly Mallon were on target as was Geraldine McLaughlin who hit a few well struck frees over the bar.
McKenna’s point in the 30th minute left Donegal leading by 1-5 to 0-7 at the interval.
It did not look enough and this was made painfully obvious when O’Hanlom superbly finished a well- worked move to the back of the Tir Chonaill.
Donegal battled bravely as team boss Davy McLaughlin through on some subs, but they never really looked like breaking down a mobile Armagh defence.
And Tir Chonaill also struggled to contain Armagh’s direct running style at their defence.
McKenna always looked dangerous in possession and she was well supported by full-forward Kelly Mallon.
Donegal brought full-forward Eilish Ward back to play as sweeper but it did not work against a very swift moving Armagh attack.
A disappointing defeat for Tir Chonaill who had just came down from Division One.
Armagh have come up from Division Three and could make a real impression in this championship on the evidence of this feisty display in Lisnaskea on an evening where quite a few Tir Chonaill fans called in to support the Ladies on their way back from Clones.
Donegal: L Gallagher; O Carr, E Gallagher, N McLaughlin; K Keaney, C Hegarty S McGroddy; K Herron, R McCafferty; N McLaughlin, K Guthrie (1-0), K Feeney; G McLaughlin(0-8, 4f)- E Ward (0-1f) E McCrory. Subs; S J McDonnell for E McRory, A Cunningham for N McLaughlin, K Wilson for K Keaney.
Armagh: K Duffy; M Tennyson, C Morgan, L Kenny; S Reel, S Mackle, M McGuinness, N Henderson (0-1), C O’Hanlon (1-2), S McCleary, F McKenna (0-9 5f), A McCoy (0-2), L McConville, K Mallon (0-1). Subs: N Marley for S Mackle, C Murray for M McAlinden.
Referee: C Dourneen (Cavan)