THERE’S A FAMILIAR look to this year’s Tesco Ulster Ladies’ SFC final.
For the fifth time in six seasons, it’s Donaghamoyne against Termon.
The Monaghan champions are a side that have sent shivers through the province but on Saturday (throw-in 2pm) in Killyclogher it’s Francis Friel’s team who enter the fray both as Ulster and indeed All-Ireland champions.
Termon have gone about their business in routine fashion this season, having overcome Glenfin on a 4-13 to 1-11 scoreline in September with Shannon McGroddy goaling after just 13 seconds to win a fourth successive Donegal SFC on the bounce.
The Burn Road played host to a first fixture outside of the domestic fare as St Paul’s from Belfast were defeated on a 3-15 to 1-4 scoreline before a place in a fourth successive Ulster final came following a 1-10 to 1-6 victory away to Tyrone’s Errigal Ciaran.
Roisin Friel has goaled in each of the two outings in Ulster so far and that type of input adds to the considerable firing power possessed on the Termon inside line, where Geraldine McLaughlin – who helped Donegal ladies to a first ever Ulster SFC at Monaghan’s expense in July – and the out-of-retirement Maureen O’Donnell provide a cutting edge.
Francie Friel knows at this stage there is absolutely no chance of coming in under the radar.
“When you’re at the top table you are there to be shot at,” manager Friel told Donegal Sport Hub this week. “Errigal Ciaran really put it up to us. That’ll stand to us. It was a tough game. That’s what you get against Tyrone teams. You go up there and into the lion’s den playing someone like Errigal Ciaran – they’re a massive club and putting in big work with the ladies. We just saw it out and the bit of experience that saw us through.
“It’s complete knock-out football. If you can manage to win the Donegal championship then it’s just survival of the fittest. We’re Ulster champions and All-Ireland champions from last year and we’ve put in a very big effort again as we don’t want just to give it away like that.”
That type of experience means it’s Termon v Donaghmoyne for a fifth time. In the years in which the Burn Road outfit didn’t win Donegal, the sides that did – Moville in 2008 and Glenfin three years later – also fell at hands of the Farney County queens.
2012 – Termon 2-6 Donaghmoyne 1-12
2013 – Termon 4-5 Donaghmoyne 1-14
2013 replay – Termon 1-4 Donaghmoyne 4-14
2014 – Termon 4-7 Donaghmoyne 3-8
Geraldine McLaughlin’s four goals from last year’s Ulster Ladies’ final, courtesy of Jerome Quinn.
Geraldine McLaughlin’s 4-4 in last year’s final swung the balance of power back towards the maroon and white, who ran out 4-7 to 3-8 winners in Enniskillen. This year’s final is closer to home.
“Killyclogher is only an hour in the road,” Friel added. “It’s good for the supporters and hopefully we get a big crowd from Termon. One of the years we had to go to Clones, which I felt was a little bit unfair. It was only 20 minutes for Donaghmoyne compared to a two-and-a-half hour drive for us.”
Friel expects to have a full panel to choose from bar Gráinne McDaid, who has a back injury, while Dara Kelly still has a knee injury which has curtailed her participation in recent weeks.
“We’re chomping at the bit just looking to get the game played. The last few days tend to drag on a bit and we can’t wait till Saturday.”
Donaghmoyne were All-Ireland champions in 2006, 2009 and 2012, as well as beaten finalists in 2005 and 2013. This year in Ulster they’ve hammered Armagh’s Carrickcuppen 5-18 to 2-3 and then beat Lurgan from Cavan, 2-13 to 3-5.
“Our experience is a good thing,” Friel added. “It’s our fourth year now in a row. We know how to prepare. Donaghamoyne are like, in men’s terms, the Crossmaglen of Ulster football. They’re there or thereabouts all the time and whatever team can beat them is usually not too far away from it.
“We beat them last year and they’re bound to have a lot of hurt from that. They beat us well in 2013 and we knew how it felt and it helped us get over the line last year. I’ve been telling the girls about that all week.”
The Lagoon could be bouncing this weekend with both the men’s and ladies’ teams on the cusp of silverware.
“It’s great for the club,” Friel added. “The ladies are going for another Ulster on Saturday and then on Sunday the men have the chance to wrap up Division 2. It could be a great weekend all ’round. First and foremost though, it’s up to the ladies to get the ball rolling.
“We just have to meet fire with fire and hope that it can take us where we want to be.”