Once again Geraldine McLaughlin was the difference as Donegal secured their second win of the league with a great win away to Meath on Sunday.
McLaughlin hit 1-9 of Donegal’s tally, which paved the way for success in round 5 of the National League in a bitterly cold Dunganny. Meath although leading by three at half-time scored just twice in the second half and were under severe pressure from Donegal throughout.
Defeat for the Royals means almost certain relegation to second tier ranks next year, while the win almost ensures Donegal will stay in the top flight.
The game opened brightly with the teams exchanging scores early, Kate Byrne opening scoring for the Royals in the opening minute while the impressive Geraldine McLaughlin equalised with a free in the third minute.
With Meath defending well, the Donegal goal in the seventh minute came as a blow as Deirdre Foley beat Aedin Murray and finished cleverly to the net.
Meath responded quickly through the ever reliable Katie O’Brien in the ninth minute, a foul on Doherty gave her a quick free, who found O’Brien in space and the Captain finished with sending the ball over the black spot.
Vital interceptions from Emma Troy and Laura Bagnall kept Meath’s pressure on the Donegal defence. Doherty added her first of the afternoon on 14 mins but this was cancelled out by a McLaughlin point a minute later.
O’Brien netted for Meath on 18 mins to put the Royals a point in front and when Grainne McCafferty was sin binned for deliberately pulling Bridgetta Lynch’s jersey, O’Brien added another point to double the Royals advantage.
Meath were clearly on top and Doherty added her second point on 21 mins to put the Royals three ahead. The pressure was all on Donegal as they could not get the ball past their own half back line, Kate Byrne, Fiona Mahon and O’Brien all keeping the pressure on the Donegal back line. O’Brien added another point on 22 mins while Doherty added Meath’s last point of the half on 23 mins.
Donegal seemed to come back at the Royals for the final five minutes of the half and two points from McLaughlin before referee Gavin Corrigan blew the half time whistle ensured that Donegal stayed in touch with the home team. At half time Meath were happy with their efforts but as previous games have taught them, the second half was vitally important. At half time Meath were three points in front, 1-07 to Donegal’s 1-04.
The second half began with Donegal’s Karen Guthrie pointing from midfield, a true statement of their intentions. Doherty pointed her fourth score of the contest to keep the gap at three points. Donegal then scored three points without reply through McLaughlin (two) and Roisin Friel to level the scores.
Donegal’s pressure was paying off as McLaughlin found the back of the net in the 42nd minute. This put Donegal ahead and they didn’t look back. A minute later McLaughlin was scoring again, this time from a free 20m out.
Meath did get back into the game and netted for a second time through O’Brien on 47 mins.
McLaughlin converted a free from what seemed to be a soft foul on 49 mins and once more on 53 mins to complete the scoring.
Meath: Irene Munnelly, Orla Byrne, Aedin Murray, Eileen Rahill, Shauna Ennis, Maire O’Shaughnessy, Emma Troy, Laura Bagnall, Vivienne McCormack, Fiona Mahon, Kate Byrne (0-01), Katie O’Brien (2-03, 1f), Geraldine Doherty (0-04), Bridgetta Lynch, Sinead Coyle. Subs: Jenny Rispin for Coyle (40 mins), Aideen Guy for Orla Byrne (48 mins), Lauren McCann for Kate Byrne, Sinead McCormack for V. McCormack (both 51 mins).
Donegal: Niamh Malley, Orla Carr, Roisin McCafferty (c), Niamh Friel, Catherine Boyle, Ciara Hegarty, Deirdre Foley (1-00), Aisling Cunningham, Karen Guthrie (0-01), Roisin Friel (0-01), Niamh McLaughlin, Lorraine Molloy, Shannon McGroddy, Eilish Ward, Geraldine McLaughlin (1-09, 3f).
Referee: Gavin Corrigan.