Geraldine McLaughlin gets the ball away ahead of Monaghan's Sharon Courtney during the Lidl National League game in Termon. Photo Geraldine Diver
Donegal are chasing a second Ulster Senior Championship title when they face Monaghan on Sunday in Clones. (Throw-in 3.45 pm)
Donegal won their one and only Ulster back in 2015. They defeated Monaghan in the final, also in Clones.
Ace forward Geraldine McLaughlin turned in an exceptional performance at full-forward on that day as she posted 2-7 out of her team’s 2-12.
Donegal won that game by five points, 2-12 to 1-10, denying Monaghan a first three in-a-row.
The Farney ladies go into the final as the champions having defeated Cavan in last year’s final.
Cavan ended Donegal’s defence of the title in the semi-final last year.
Davy McLaughlin from Moville was manager of Donegal in 2015. However, he stepped down at the end of 2015.
He has been replaced by Micheál Naughton, who guided Donegal to a Division 2A League title last season and to a first ever Division One League final this season.
Donegal lost that final to Cork, going down by a point in a high scoring encounter in Parnell Park. The final score was 2-15 to 2-14.
Donegal and Monaghan have played one game each on the way to the final.
Captain Geraldine McLaughlin once again led the charge as Donegal produced an amazing comeback against Armagh in the Ulster semi-final, three weeks ago.
Donegal were 11 points down at half time, 1-8 to 0-0, before turning in a champagne performance in the second half to emerge 1-14 to 1-10 winners. Geraldine McLaughlin ended the game with a personal tally of 1-7.
Monaghan, in a repeat of last year’s decider, were 1-19 to 2-10 semi-final winners over Cavan.
Their scoring ace Caoimhe Mohan with 1-6 top scored for the eight time champions.
“Monaghan are a very good side and have been the benchmark in Ulster for the last ten years or so,” said Micheál Naughton.
“They have been in something like the last 16 finals and have won eight of them. They have been the team to beat in Ulster in all that time.
“We have a good side, too, as we proved in the league by getting to the final and only losing to Cork by a point.”
Donegal are an experienced outfit and have 12 survivors from the team that started the 2015 final.
Treasa Doherty, Emer Gallagher, Nicole McLaughlin, Therese McCafferty,Ciara Hegarty, Kate Keaney, Shannon McGroddy, Katy Herron, Aoife McDonnell, Niamh Hegarty, Geraldine McLaughlin, and Yvonne McMonagle were in the first 15 two years ago.
Another regular down the years and still one of Donegal's central players, Karen Guthrie, was unable to start the 2015 final due to injury. However, the Glenfin player was introduced from the bench in the closing minutes.
Monaghan, too, have a good few survivors with nine of the team - Linda Martin, Sharon and Cora Courtney, Grainne McNally, Aoife, Eimear and Ciara McAnespie, Laura McEnaney and Caoimhe Mohan - that lost to Donegal all featuring against Cavan last time out.
Donegal are the form team and have already a win over Monaghan under their belts this year.
That was their meeting in the Lidl Ladies Division One in Termon back in April. Donegal won a close game 3-12 to 1-17.
“We are expecting Sunday to be another close game and we are under no illusions of the challenge we face,” Micheál Naughton insisted.
“But training has gone well since the Armagh game and the girls are looking forward to the final and relishing the challenge.
“We know we are good enough and if we play as well as we can and produce the football we are capable of playing we will be in with a great chance.”
Injury rules out Kate Keaney due to a cruciate injury suffered in a league final, and Shannon McGroddy, following recovery protocols after suffering concussion in a club game before the semi-final.
Otherwise, Donegal are at full strength for what promises to be a close encounter.
And there is no doubt about it, if Donegal can reproduce the work rate and energy they produced in the second half against Armagh, they certainly have the artillery in attack to once again land Ulster’s top prize.
DONEGAL SQUAD: Denise McElhinney, Aoife McColgan, Niamh Mailey, Laura Gallagher, Treasa Doherty, Emer Gallagher, Nicole McLaughlin, Therese McCafferty, Ciara Hegarty, Deirdre Foley, Aoife McDonnell, Katy Herron, Karen Guthrie, Grainne Houston, Niamh Hegarty, Eilish Ward, Roisin Friel, Geraldine McLaughlin, Yvonne McMonagle, Paula McGrory, Kelly Wilson, Kaneisha McKinney, Caroline Gallagher, Lucy O’Flynn, Niamh Carr, Niamh McDaid, Laoise McConnell, Anne Gildea, Kate Keaney, Shannon McGroddy.