TG4 ULSTER SENIOR CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL
Donegal 1-10 Armagh 0-9
By Frank Craig
DONEGAL tore up the formbook in spectacular fashion as they downed reigning champions Armagh in the TG4 Ulster SFC decider at Owenbeg.
Three weeks ago Shane McCormack’s side enjoyed a comprehensive eight-point championship win over Donegal.
However, the playing field was levelled considerably with the pre-game news that Maxi Curran had experienced duo Niamh Hegarty and Tanya Kennedy back in the mix.
Armagh opened in confident fashion when they immediately jumped two clear thanks to efforts from Eve Laverty and an Aimee Mackin free. Donegal opened their account on five minutes as Hegarty won and converted a close range free.
Still, Armagh opened up a 0-4 to 0-1 advantage by the 11th minute as Mackin registered a fine brace, one from a free and the other a brilliant solo effort where she gave both Tanya Kennedy and Katie Dowds the slip.
But Donegal, to their credit, found top gear in the second quarter as they rattled off six points on the bounce to open up a three-point lead nearing half-time. Karen Guthrie got that scoring burst under way while efforts from Hegarty (free) and Dowds levelled the contest up on 20 minutes.
Donegal took the lead for the first time shortly after when brilliant approach play from Niamh McLaughlin forged the chance for Katie Long to move Donegal onto five points.
Amy Boyle Carr followed that up with an excellent double as the underdogs went two clear verging on the midpoint. Armagh finally broke a 22-minute barren spell when Mackin converted from another free just before the break as Donegal went in 0-7 to 0-5 clear.
The second-half opened with Kelly Mallon halving the deficit from a free but with Long also on target for Donegal, two remained the difference nearing the 40-minute mark.
Armagh upped the ante and consecutive points from Lauren McConville as well as replacement Caitriona O’Hagan tied matters up as the contest moved into the last quarter.
Mackin then cut a passage through the Donegal rearguard and it took a desperate and last ditch block from Emer Gallagher to prevent the Orchard dangerwoman from getting her shot off on goal.
The play was, however, called back for a foul on Mackin and having shipped a heavy knock in that subsequent coming together with Gallagher, Mackin, after a lengthy stoppage, was forced to depart the fray due to injury.
Mallon eventually converted a free to once again push Armagh to the fore at 0-9 to 0-8. Niamh Hegarty then almost found the top corner but her drive for goal was pushed onto the bar by Anna Carr.
Still, a brilliant ball from Gurthrie found Hegarty inside and she once again levelled the contest up. Nearing the final five minutes a great run from McLaughlin won a close range free which Guthrie landed to nudge her side 0-10 to 0-9 clear.
And, in the dying seconds, Donegal sealed the deal as substitute Ciara McGarvey — with her first touch — rattled the Armagh net.
Donegal: C McGarvey 1-0; Niamh Hegarty 0-3 (0-2f); A Boyle Carr 0-2; Karen Guthrie 0-2 (0-1f); K Long 0-2; K Dowds 0-1.
Armagh: A Mackin 0-4 (0-3f); K Mallon 0-2f; C O’Hagan 0-1, N Coleman 0-1; Lauren McConville 0-1.
Donegal: C Friel; N Carr, A Temple Asoko, N McLaughlin; A Boyle Carr, K Guthrie, T Hegarty; N Hegarty, N McLaughlin; R Rodgers, K Long, K Dowds; E Gallagher, K Herron, T Kennedy.
Subs: S McGroddy for Long (50), S White for Roisin Rodgers (52), C McGarvey for Guthrie (59).
Armagh: A Carr; S Grey, C McCambridge, C Marley; G Ferguson, L McConville, C Towe; N Coleman, E Lavery; B Mackin, A Mackin, E Druse; N Marley, K Mallon, A McCoy.
Subs: C O’Hagan for Lavery (40), N Reel for A Mackin (46), L Kenny for N Marley (51), B Hendron for C Marley (55), T Grimes for for Drude (56).
Referee: David Hurson (Monaghan).