Niamh Hegarty on the ball for Donegal Photo Sportsfile
Donegal Ladies are looking forward to a first All-Ireland semi-final after digging deep against Armagh in their All-Ireland quarter-final clash in Omagh.
Donegal ……….. 0-19
There may have been 28 points between the sides in the Ulster final five weeks earlier but this was a much closer affair after the Orchard ladies staged a remarkable second half comeback.
Donegal led by six points at half time 0-11 to 0-5. But the hotly fancied Ulster champions were outscored 1-8 to 0-8 in the second period with Aoife McCoy’s goal in the middle of the second half setting up a grandstand finish.
The goal cut the Donegal lead to a single point as Armagh stormed back into the tie and when the Orchard ladies drew level shortly after, Donegal were in bother.
In a frenetic fourth quarter the teams were level twice before Donegal bared their teeth and the craft and experience of Katy Herron, Aoife McDonnell, Niamh Hegarty, Geraldine McLaughlin, Eilish Ward and Yvonne Bonner saw Donegal dictate the pace in the closing ten minutes.
Ward, who had been prominent throughout along with Katy Herron and Niamh Hegarty, kicked two late points and Hegarty the other as Donegal outscored Armagh 0-3 to 0-1 in the closing seven minutes.
Aoife McDonnell got Donegal up and running with an opening point inside four minutes. Geraldine McLaughlin added a second shortly after from a close in free for a 0-2 to 0-0 lead after five minutes.
With Niamh Hegarty excelling in her playmaker role Donegal continued to press. But it was Armagh who hit the game's next score. Aimee Mackin split the Donegal posts from a 20 metre free on seven minutes.
But Donegal pulled away again through points from Sarah Jane McDonald and Hegarty to lead 0-4 to 0-1 by the ten minute mark.
However, thanks to quick fire points from Kelly Mallon and Mackin, the margin was back to one, 0-4 to 0-3, by the end of the first quarter.
It was then that Yvonne Bonner began to exert her influence and Donegal reeled off five points in the space of six minutes to race into a 0-9 to 0-3 lead.
Bonner, who had shown a worrying dip in form since the Ulster final, hit four of the points, three of them in quick succession, with McDonald getting the other one.
Mackin and Bonner and Caroline Hanlon and McLaughlin traded points in the closing minutes and Armagh were unlucky not to score a goal.
Full-forward Aoife McCoy was denied by the woodwork with Laura Gallagher beaten after the Donegal ‘keeper had hit a poor kickout.
Donegal led 0-11 to 0-5 at half-time.
Armagh broke from the blocks on the resumption and inside 30 seconds Laura Gallagher had to make a top drawer save to deny Aimee Mackin at point blank range.
Mackin did open the second half scoring shortly after with opening point to reduce the margin to five.
And while Eilish Ward and Yvonne Bonner responded for Donegal, Armagh through Mackin, Caroline O’Hanlon and Aoife McCoy had trimmed the lead to four points towards the end of the third quarter.
And when McCoy got on the end of a good delivery to crash past Gallagher for the game’s only goal in the middle of the half, the margin was down to one, 0-14 to 1-10.
Geraldine McLaughlin temporarily restored a two point advantage for the Ulster champions. But the momentum was with Armagh. Mackin and Shauna Grey pointed to tie up the contest for the first time at 0-15 to 1-12, with a little over ten minutes on the clock.
The sides were level one more at 0-16 to 1-13 before Donegal showed their metal to hit those late points from Ward and Hegarty.
DONEGAL: Laura Gallagher; Treasa Doherty, Nicole McLaughlin, Deirdre Foley; Therese McCafferty, Ciara Hegarty, Emer Gallagher; Katy Herron (0-1), Aoife McDonnell (0-1); Anne Marie McGlynn, Niamh Hegarty (0-2), Sarah Jane McDonald (0-3); Geraldine McLaughlin (0-4,1f), Yvonne Bonner (0-5), Eilish Ward (0-3) Subs: Amy Boyle Carr for D Foley, Olive McCafferty for A M McGlynn both 49; Karen Guthrie for S J McDonald 56.
ARMAGH: Caroline O'Hare; Sarah Marley, Megan Sheridan, Sharon Reel; Mairead Tennyson, Tiarna Grimes, Marian McGuinness; Blaithin Mackin (0-1), Caroline O'Hanlon (0-2); Meabh Moriarty, Fionnuala McKenna, Lauren McConville; Aimee Mackin (0-7,2f), Aoife McCoy (1-1), Kelly Mallon (0-1,f). Sub: Shauna Grey (0-1) for F McKenna