Final focus: Ulster’s Ladies Football League story

AS Armagh chase a first-ever Division One final spot after four wins from four, Niall McCoy looks at the eight previous times Ulster sides have made it to the decider

Monaghan 1994

THE first Division One final took place all the way back in 1979 when Tipperary beat Galway, but it took until 1994 for Ulster to make an appearance as Monaghan faced Mayo. It would be a winning start though as the Farney County defeated Mayo. Monaghan had finished third in the table so had to come through the quarter-finals but eased past Wexford before accounting for Cork in the semi-final. In the final, they were 2-9 to 1-10 winners over Mayo but they couldn’t complete the double as Waterford defeated them in the All-Ireland final, a hard loss to stomach.

Monaghan 1996

MONAGHAN made it two titles in three seasons and, again, it was Mayo who lost out in the decider – their final pain not exclusive to their men’s sides, it seems. Des Patton’s Monaghan started the league on fire, only Waterford getting the better of them as they won six group games and the quarter-final against Longford. Then came the not too small matter of a successful All-Ireland title, bogey side Waterford defeated in the semi-final before a replay final win over Laois. The league picked up after this, unusually, with Waterford again providing the semi-final opposition. The Farney dominated in Clones and went on to complete the double as they defeated Mayo 3-16 to 4-4 in Longford, Diane Dempsey player of the match.

Monaghan 1999

MONAGHAN made it back to the league final in 1999 and they kept their winning run going with victory over Waterford. Mickey Morgan and Paul Swift were in charge of the side as they brought another national title back to the county. Waterford had beaten them in a replayed All-Ireland final the season before, but it was basically one-way traffic in the first half at Parnell Park as Monaghan eventually won 4-6 to 0-12.

Tyrone 2000

TYRONE became the first side from Ulster apart from Monaghan to reach a Division One final, but they couldn’t finish the story as Mayo came out on top. The Red Hands had won Division Two honours the previous season and found life pretty easy in the top flight – a win over Laois in Drumragh catching the eye early on. Defeats followed to Monaghan and Waterford but they had already reached the last four where 1-9 from Eilis Gormley saw them gain revenge on their Monaghan neighbours. Mayo, who would go on to retain their All-Ireland crown, were the best team in the land though but Tyrone gave them a real battle before losing 1-11 to 2-6.

Monaghan 2001

MONAGHAN lost a league semi-final and Ulster final to Tyrone in 2000, but they were back on form the following season as they aimed for a fourth league title, getting the better of the Red Hands in the semi-final. However, they tasted defeat for the one and only time in their history at that juncture as Clare claimed their first title. The final was played in Mullingar and the Banner triumphed on a 2-11 to 1-11 scoreline with Slainey Murray hitting the crossbar late on when searching for a crucial Farney goal.

Monaghan 2012

IT took another 11 years before an Ulster side was back in the final and, unsurprisingly, it was Monaghan who ended the wait as they took part in their fifth decider and claimed their fourth title. Cork were the stars of ladies football at the time and between 2004 and 2017 they appeared in 13 out of 14 finals, winning 11 of those. Mayo beat them in the first of those, in ’04, and Monaghan were the only other side to stop their sweep. They led by a point at the break, thankful to Linda Martin for some fine saves, and although Cork did hit two second-half goals, the Ulster side were victorious on a 1-13 to 2-7 scoreline.

Donegal 2017

DONEGAL reached the Division One final for the first time in 2017, but they suffered a heart-breaking one-point loss to Cork. The side won five of their seven group games before absolutely blitzing Galway in the semi-final, Geraldine McLaughlin grabbing an incredible 4-4. She added 1-4 in the decider, all but a point coming from play, but Cork still won 2-15 to 2-14 with Orla Finn’s 1-10 tally proving decisive. The Donegal fans were left incensed at Parnell Park as Yvonne McMonagle was sin-binned and Katy Herron red-carded late on by referee Colm McManus.

Donegal 2022

THE 2022 leagues remained in the four-team 1A and 1B structures that had been introduced during the Covid pandemic. Maxi Curran’s side finished second to Mayo in a group that also contained Galway and Westmeath. That set up a semi-final against Dublin and they looked to be heading to the exit gate until late goals from Emma McCrory and Yvonne Bonner dramatically booked a Croke Park date against Meath. The Royals were at the top of their game then though and although they got nothing easy, they came out on top 2-8 to 1-9 after grinding Donegal down.

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