DONEGAL CRUISED TO a third Ulster ladies title in four years having dismantled Armagh this afternoon at Enniskillen’s Brewster Park.
Donegal 9-21 Armagh 4-8
Donegal, queens of the province in both 2015 and 2017, were impressive throughout their 28-point win, with both Geraldine McLaughlin and Yvonne Bonner (nee McMonagle) grabbing hat-tricks of goals and six points apiece. Eilish Ward, Niamh Hegarty and Karen Guthrie also netted on a memorable afternoon for Damien Devaney and Maxi Curran’s side.
As early as the third minute, the writing began to be plastered on the wall as Bonner was on hand to score the opening goal of the game.
But Armagh took advantage of some hesitation in the Donegal defence and goalkeeper Roisin McCafferty was caught out off his line as Kelly Mallon brought Armagh back to 1-7 to 1-4 down.
Geraldine McLaughlin, at the other end, scored Donegal’s second goal but Armagh kept in it 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 on 17 minutes.
However, two goals right before half-time swung the contest completely in Donegal’s favour. Firstly, Eilish Ward was on hand to round goalkeeper Caroline O’Hare on 28 minutes and shoot Donegal’s third goal.
Then, just a minute later, there was a fourth. This time it was Hegarty who was on the mark, goaling from a rebound after Bonner’s pop at a point came back down off the upright.
At the break, Donegal were 12 points in front – leading 4-13 to 2-7.
A fifth goal, three minutes into part two, came from skipper Guthrie. The Castlefin native was playing a captain’s part.
Armagh needed something but knew the goose was cooked when, on 47 minutes Roisin McCafferty, Donegal’s defender turned goalkeeper, saved a penalty from Mackin.
Then, just a minute later, Bonner was on hand to net Donegal’s sixth goal with a simple finish into the empty net after O’Hare came off her line.
All Armagh could manage in the second half was a point from Caroline O’Hanlon and a couple of late goals. Their misery was compounded with Geraldine McLaughlin added a seventh Donegal goal on 50 minutes, having played a give and go with Bonner.
Armagh knew their luck was definitely out when Mallon hit the post when going for goal late on. Emer Gallagher was yellow carded and sin-binned in the last minute for a foul on Mallon and O’Hanlon tucked home from the spot – Armagh’s third penalty.
But that was merely a prelude to another Donegal goal, as McLaughlin burst into space to hammer home her third goal and Donegal’s eighth of the afternoon. Armagh gave their supporters something to cheer when Blaithin Mackin put a daisycutter past McCafferty.
Donegal weren’t done yet and even though Herron was also sin-binned late on, Bonner smashed home her third goal of the game to put the cherry on top of the well-iced cake.
Donegal now look forward to a group stage before the All-Ireland quarter-final, the stage where they went down in both their previous instances as Ulster champions. But they can look forward this year with optimism.
Donegal: Roisin McCafferty; Treasa Doherty, Nicole McLaughlin, Emer Gallagher; Therese McCafferty, Ciara Hegarty, Deirdre Foey; Katie Herron (0-4) Yvonne Bonner (3-6); Sarah Jane McDonald (1-3), Niamh Hegarty (1-1), Aoife McDonnell (0-1); Geraldine McLaughlin (3-6, 1f) Karen Guthrie (1-0) Eilish Ward (1-0). 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)