Heartbreak for Ladies as they go down to Armagh

Heartbreak for Ladies as they go down to Armagh
Heartbreaking! There is no other way to describe this cruellest of defeats to an Armagh side that simply refused to die in a truly thrilling affair at Clones.

Heartbreaking! There is no other way to describe this cruellest of defeats to an Armagh side that simply refused to die in a truly thrilling affair at Clones.

Donegal 2-11

Armagh 2-13

And understandably, there were loads of tears from a great Tir Conaill side who led for 55 minute but just came up short on those final frenetic moments.

Davy McLaughlin’s brave girls gave it everything, but two late points from Armagh’s talismanic Caroline O’Hanlon and Aimee Mackin gave the Orchard County a narrow and possibly marginally deserved victory.

There were two major turning points in this match for a Donegal side who will also rue a total of ten wides, six from scorable positions over the hour.

The first came in the 50th minute when Yvonne picked up a fine pass from Aoife McDonnell on the edge of the Armagh square from the excellent Niamh Hegarty.

Donegal were leading by 2-11 to 2-10 as McMonagle rounded her marker and was going for her hat-trick.

But Armagh keeper Katy Daly pulled a timely and brilliant save which was effectively a four pointer for the eventual winners.

Two minutes later, disaster of a different shade struck when the superb Niamh Hegarty was sent to the sin bin.

This was a terrible hammer blow to Donegal, as Hegarty ran herself to a standstill and repeatedly carved open the Armagh defence for McMonagle’s earlier goals.

Armagh also lost Caroline O’Hanlon for a similar offence four minutes from time.

But Donegal lost their composure as the extremely self- assured Armagh girls got those vital late scores that gave then such a narrow victory.

Donegal were well worth their half-time lead of 1-7 to 0-8 after dominating matters for most of the opening half.

Twice in the second half, it looked they were about to pull clear but were constantly overhauled by an Armagh side who reacted very well to McMonagle’s clinically struck goals.

The Glenfin star’s first came after she made a diagonal run deep inside the Armagh defence and collected a super pass from Niamh Hegarty, beat her marker and slammed a glorious left-footed shot to the corner of the Armagh net.

McMonagle’s magical strike put a dominant Donegal ahead by 1-7 to 0-7 after 26 minutes of absorbing football against an Armagh side who were fighting hard to stay in touch in the opening half.

Davy McLaughlin’s girls were on top in that opening half but hit six wides and struck the post twice from scorable efforts.

Tir Conaill got off to a fine start with snappy opening points from McMonagle and the beavering Niamh Hegarty.

Armagh hit back through markswoman Kelly Mallon before the impressive Geraldine McLaughlin stretched the lead with a well- struck point.

McLaughlin and Aimee Mackin, the Jamie Clarke of the Armagh side then swapped points to leave Tir Conaill leading by 0-5 to 0-2 after 17 minutes.

Despite repeatedly turning Armagh over in possession Donegal failed to score for he next seven minutes and hit three wides in five minutes.

A more economical Armagh countered cleverly through Mallon, Lauren McConville and Mackin to level matters by the 24th minute.

But, a minute later McMonagle struck with deadly effect for the goal and a fine point from Aoife McDonnell gave them a brief four- point lead.

However, doughty Armagh narrowed the gap with late points from team captain Caroline O’Hanlon and Lennon to leave Donegal ahead by 1-7 to 0-8 at the interval.

The Orchard girls grabbed their first goal in the 35th minute when team captain Caroline O’Hanlon found Aoife Lennon and the youngster slid the ball low under Laura Gallagher to the net.

Lennon’s critical strike left Donegal leading by 1-9 to 1-8.

That set the pattern for a real roller coaster second half as both sides traded scores.

It looked like Donegal had struck another hammer blow when a Geraldine McLaughlin free found Aoife McDonnell who quickly transferred the ball to McMonagle.

The Glenfin star rounded her marker and slammed the ball low to the Armagh net to put Donegal into a 2-10 to 1-10 lead.

But a cool and composed Armagh stayed patient and cooly carved open the Tir Conaill defence to grab another goal a few minutes later when Caroline O’Hanlon took a pass from the electryfing Lennon and hit the Donegal net.

Geraldine McLaughlin replied with a fantastic point from long range to briefly put Donegal back in front by 2-11 to 2-10.

Sadly for Davy McLaughlin’s girls, this was to be their last score as Armagh prevailed in those final heartbreaking moments.

But this is a pretty young Donegal side that should not make any hasty decisions after this encouraging season when they took an Ulster title.

Their day will come, sooner rather than later.

Armagh: Katie Daly; Mairead Tennyson, Caoimhe Morgan, Clodagh McCambridge; Sharon Reel, Sinead McCleary, Niamh Marley; Aoife Lennon (1-3) Caroline O’Hanlon (1-21f); Aoife McCoy, Kelly Mallon (0-3f) Lauren McConville (0-1); Sarah Marley, Fionnuala McKenna, Aimee Mackin (0-31f). Subs: M Sheridan for C McCambridge (29) C Malone for L McConville (41), C Marley for A McCoy (59).

Donegal: Laura Gallagher; Treasa Doherty, Emer Gallagher, Nicole McLaughlin; Therese McCafferty, Kate Keaney, Ciara Hegarty; Grainne Houston, Katy Herron (0-1); Yvonne McMonagle (2-3), Niamh Hegarty (0-1), Niamh McLaughlin (0-1); Geraldine McLaughlin (0-42f) Amber Barrett, Aoife McDonnell (0-1).