Geraldine McLaughlin . . . another wonder goal for Donegal.
Just magic! There is no other way to describe a magnificent goal scored by Donegal superstar Geraldine McLaughlin that lit up a superb team display that simply blew Monaghan away on a scorching evening in Healy Park Omagh.
Geraldine latched onto a long ball over the top, left her marker floundering before bearing down on goal from the right wing.
McLaughlin did an exquisite shimmy and struck the ball left-footed high to the net for a wonderful goal in the 10th minute.
It was a score worthy of any arena and certainly one of the finest this reporter has seen in almost 30 years of covering GAA all over the country.
McLaughlin’s terrific strike was one of three clinically finished goals in the opening half.
This was the clear impetus for Donegal’s most memorable victory over a Monaghan side who will not be appearing in an Ulster final for the first time in ten years.
Late inclusion Eilish Ward, the magical Geraldine McLaughlin and Yvonne Bonner grabbed the all important goals in the opening 20 minutes to effectively seal this encounter.
Ward cooly converted a 6th minute penalty after a superb penetrating run from centre-forward Niamh Hegarty was halted illegally
The third goal came in the 16th minute when a rocketed effort from Sarah Jane McDonald was saved brilliantly by Linda Martin. But the ball hung tantalizingly in the air and Yvonne Bonner rose highest to palm the ball to the net.
Bonner’s goal put Donegal into a 3-4 to 0-4 lead.
Once again Bonner and McLaughlin were a deadly double act and were well supported by a swift moving and accurate forward line.
In between Monaghan had made a bit of a match of it with full-forward Ellen McCarron looking pretty dangerous and nailing three points.
But a lighter and smaller Monaghan side was always constantly struggling against a powerful and very well drilled Donegal side.
In contrast Damian Devanney’s girls always looked dangerous on the break, making clever angled runs and hitting some penetrating kicked passes.
Ellen McCarron and the Courtneys tried to rally their troops but it was always a tough struggle against a most powerful Donegal side
Donegal lined out without their talismanic captain and free taker Karen Guthrie.
The Glenfin woman was replaced by the very experiences Eilish Ward from St Naul’s with the strong running Yvonne Bonner switching to midfield.
And it was the long striding Bonner who won the throw in and sped through the Monaghan defence like a sizzling blonde streak of light before blasting the ball over the bar.
That set the pattern for a pretty one-sided first half where Donegal came at Monaghan in waves.
They should have had two more goals but were denied by some desperate last line defending from Monaghan.
Donegal threw on Anna Marie McGlynn, sister of Frank McGlynn but it was Monaghan who got the first crucial score of the second half.
It was a well worked score involving corner forward Therese Scott, McCarron who fed centre-forward Niamh Callan who slid the ball low to the Donegal net in the 4oth minute.
But any hopes of a Monaghan revival were firmly quenched as a resurgent Donegal hit three points in two minutes to reassert their superiority through Eilish Ward, Aoife McDonnell and a Geraldine McLaughlin free which pushed the Donegal lead out to 3-11 to 1-7.
The final quarter was a canter for Donegal who ran the bench but continued to press Monaghan.
They finished with a very creditable 3-17 and will now play Armagh in Brewster Park in the Ulster final on June 17.
And on the evidence of this display they look like a team that has serious ambition this year.
DONEGAL: Roisin McCafferty; Olive McCafferty, Nicole McLaughlin, Treasa Doherty; Therese McCafferty, Ciara Hegarty, Deirdre Foley (0-1); Katy Herron (0-2) Yvonne McMonagle (1-2); Sarah Jane McDonald (0-2) Niamh Hegarty, Aoife McDonnell (0-3); Bridget Gallagher, Ailish Ward (1-1, pen) Geraldine McLaughlin (1-5,5f). Subs: Anna Marie McGlynn for Olive McCafferty 38, Roisin Friel (0-1) for Bridget Gallagher 42, Blathnaid McLaughlin for Niamh Hegarty 52, Kate Keaney for Deirdre Foley 59.
MONAGHAN: Linda Martin; Rachel McKenna, Hazel Kingham, Josie Fitzpatrick; Aoife McAnespie, Sharon Courtney, Eimear McAnespie; Muireann Atkinson (0-1f) Fiona Courtney; Shauna Coyle, Niamh Callan (1-0), Rosemary Courtney (0-1); Ciara McAnespie, Ellen McCarron (0-53f) Theresa Scott (0-1f). Sub: Eva Woods (0-1) for Shauna Coyle 51.
REFEREE: Brendan Rice (Down)