Donegal Ladies go on goal rampage as they annihilate Armagh in Ulster final


Gerry McLaughlin


Gerry McLaughlin

Donegal Ladies go on goal rampage as they annihilate Armagh in Ulster final

The Donegal players celebrate at the final whistle. Picture Sportsfile

Brilliant, exhilarating, breathless and hugely entertaining, and that is just the first half.

Donegal 9-21
Armagh 4-8

Tir Conaill’s terrific Ladies led Armagh by an incredible 4-13 to 2-7 at half-time in one of the most remarkable first halves ever seen in Ladies Football at Brewster Park as dazzling Donegal and a gritty Armagh went toe to toe in a memorable shootout.
But it got even better in the second half as Donegal added an incredible 5-8 while shell-shocked but battling Armagh managed
In a team of heroes, it was the brilliant Yvonne Bonner and magnificent Geraldine McLaughlin that superbly drove Donegal to their second Ulster title in three years, after a memorable display of power and panache that simply blew Armagh away in Brewster Park.
This deadly duo finished up with 3-6 each and put on an exhibition of forward finishing that will live long in the memory of those who were present.
Bonner and McLaughlin have a telepathic understanding and a ruthless patient pursuit of goals.
So if Michael Murphy and Co were watching, these ladies certainly led the way in the scoring stakes.
And if there was a turning point in that wonderful opening 30 minutes, it had to be two Donegal goals from the boots of Eilish Ward and Niamh Hegarty in the space of 30 seconds that really crucified gallant Armagh.
Those killer goals pushed Donegal to a 4-11 to 2-7 lead after plucky Armagh had overhauled and early Donegal lead of 1-6 to 0-3.
But it must be said that Bonner from Glenfin was a bright blonde arrow of destruction every time she got possession and her finishing was just brilliant.
Donegal lived dangerously at the start when keeper Roisin McCafferty, who had an uncharacteristic off day gave a pass across her own goal that was intercepted and could have been a goal but for a foul on an Armagh player and Aimee Mackin opened the scoring for Armagh.
But it was all Donegal thereafter with Bonner finishing off a swift move with a cool shot to the net.
She added a brace of points before Armagh woke up.
Geraldine McLaughlin was causing all sorts of problems up front, before Armagh profited from some hesitancy on the part of Donegal keeper McCafferty.
The comeback began when Armagh’s Kelly Mallon swooped with McCafferty in now man’s land to narrow the gap to 1-7 to 1-4 as Donegal lost right half back Therese McCafferty to the sin bin for ten minutes on a yellow card.
Geraldine McLaughlin then struck like a piranha with a well- finished goal.
But Armagh were not finished yet as Aoife McCoy was fouled and Aimee Mackin hit a superb penalty to the roof of the Donegal net, which made it 2-8 to 2-4 by the 17th minute.
Predictably it was McLaughlin who led the Donegal revival in a short sharp burst arrowing over some fine points.
But the game then turned irrevocably in favour of Tir Conaill in the space of 30 seconds in the 28th minute.
Firstly Eilish Ward got on the end of yet another sweeping move and slipped the ball to the net.
From the kick out a Donegal shot for a point came off the upright straight into the arms of a grateful arms of Niamh Hegarty who cooly picked her spot to the net.
Suddenly Donegal had sprinted to a 4-11 to 2-7 lead and there was just now way back for Armagh.
And it did not get any better for Armagh in the second half as talismanic team captain Karen Guthrie found the net early in the half to add to Armagh’s misery.
This was followed by more goals from McLaughlin and Bonner as the pace never flagged in the second half.
But Armagh were shell-shocked but never gave in and hit two late goals from a late penalty from Caroline O’Hanlon and Blathin Mackin.
Donegal picked up a few late yellow cards as Geraldine McLaughlin and Katy Herron were sidelined.
But it made no difference to a fantastic display from an exceptionally talented team.
Once again the usual suspects walked tall for Donegal when it really mattered.
Yvonne Bonner and Geraldine Mhave been Donegal’s “Terrible Twins” for quite a few years the Ladies Football equivalent of former Galway greats Frank Stockwell and Sean Purcell.
The Hegarty sisters also have been at the heart of much that is good in Donegal for many years.
And Donegal’s hard training regime since last November has really paid dividends as they were able to match an equally physically powerful and imposing Armagh side.
But so too has a dynamic new management structure allied with the introduction of some exciting new talent that is gelling well with this otherwise vastly experienced side.
They are now into a group stage with Tipperary and the runners-up in Munster.
But this is a team that has the look and the feel of a side that could still be around in September.
And that it their belief as well!

Donegal: Roisin McCafferty; Treasa Doherty, Nicole McLaughlin, Emer Gallagher; Therese McCafferty, Ciara Hegarty, Deirdre Foley; Katie Herron (0-5), Yvonne Bonner (3-5); Sarah Jane McDonald (0-2), Niamh Hegarty (1-1), Aoife McDonnell (0-1); Geraldine McLaughlin (3-5,1f)) Karen Guthrie (1-1), Eilish Ward (1-1). Subs: Roisin Friel for Niamh Hegarty (46), Bridget Gallagher for Eilish Ward (45), Kathleen McKinney for Treasa Doherty (45), Blathnaid McLaughlin for Sarah Jane McDonald (56)

Armagh: Caroline O’Hare; Sarah Marley, Caoimhe Morgan, Sharon Reel; Mairead Tennyson, Tiarna Grimes, Blathin Mackin (1-2); Clodagh McCambridge, Caroline O’Hanlon (1-2); Maedbh Moriarty, Fionnuala McKenna Lauren McConville: Aimee Mackin (0-1f) Aoife McCoy (1-2f) Kelly Mallon (1-1). Subs: Megan Sheridan for Sharon Reel (39), Marian McGuinness for Fionnuala McKenna (43), Niamh Murphy for Kelly Mallon (60)

Referee: Brian McCallion (Tyrone)