Curran cautious as Donegal cut down Orchard in title decider
Donegal 5-12 Armagh 1-9
Armagh's hopes of ascending the Ulster ladies' football throne were not so much diminished as blown out of the water by a well-drilled Donegal side in what proved to be a rather one-sided decider at St Tiernach's Park, Clones yesterday.
The Orchard County had entered the fray bolstered by hope but in the opening minutes their ambitions lay in tatters because of their opponents' whirlwind start.
Donegal were out of the traps at such a blistering pace that they left their opponents shell-shocked in an early blitz that set the tone for the rest of the game.
Points from Geraldine McLaughlin and Karen Guthrie in the opening minute proved an aperitif for a main course of devastating finishing that saw Amy Boyle-Carr and Niamh McLaughlin slam in goals that all but pulled the mat from under the Orchard County's feet.
They scarcely had time to draw breath following that opening salvo before points from skipper Guthrie and the ever-dangerous Boyle-Carr put Donegal nine clear by the end of the opening quarter.
Even at that juncture there was simply no way back for an Armagh side that were achieving difficulty in even getting the ball out of their own half.
Restricted to occasional raids, they were forced to defend ferociously as Maxie Curran's side sought to press home their advantage.
The reigning champions' pace and penetration were very much in evidence when Niamh McLaughlin sped in to plant the ball in the Armagh net for a third time to cement her side's almost embarrassing dominance.
Armagh strove to respond to the tsunami of attacks they were facing but were unable to achieve any real level of momentum.
Caroline O'Hanlon managed to get the side off the mark before Aimee Mackin (2) and Kelly Mallon picked off points but these scores represented nothing more than a pin-prick in Donegal's soaring resolve.
Ahead by 3-5 to 0-4 at the break, there was never any danger of Donegal being reined in and when they added another 1-3 in the third quarter Armagh were already being counted out.
The manner in which Geraldine McLaughlin took her team's fourth goal underlined Armagh's vulnerability.
The Donegal ace seized on a mis-hit restart and curled the ball into the net to leave her side in an unassailable position.
Armagh had to wait until the 45th minute before they received a modicum of comfort when the vastly experienced O'Hanlon pounced to drive the ball into the Donegal net.
The north west side went on to close out the game in an almost casual manner which perhaps encapsulated what was a dismal performance by the beleaguered Orchard County.
Donegal manager Curran was certainly pleased with his team's performance but is acutely aware that bigger challenges loom on the All-Ireland stage.
"We have to build on this. Armagh are a better side than they showed. The fact that we got off to that good start stood to us and we were able to build on it but we still have work to do because there are top teams seeking the All-Ireland title," said Curran.
"You can take nothing for granted at this level. We know we have work to do."
Donegal scorers: G McLaughlin 2-4 (1f), Niamh McLaughlin 2-2, A Boyle Carr 1-2, K Guthrie 0-4 (3f).
Armagh scorers: C O'Hanlon 1-3 (2f), A Mackin 0-4, K Mallon 0-1 (1f), B Mackin 0-1.
Donegal: A McColgan; T Doherty, E Gallagher, Nicole McLaughlin; N Carr, N Boyle, M Ryan; K Herron, E McGinley; K Guthrie, K Keeney, A Boyle Carr; Niamh McLaughlin, G McLaughlin, S McGroddy. Subs: AM McGlynn for McGroddy (49), S McLaughlin for Ryan (55), S McGinty for Boyle Carr (58), K McKinney for Boyle (58), A Flanagan for Carr (59).
Armagh: C O'Hare; S Marley, C Morgan, R O'Reilly; C McKenna, C McCambridge, T Grimes; N Coleman, C O'Hanlon; M Moriarty, A McCoy, K Mallon; A Donaldson, B Mackin, A Mackin.
Subs: M Sheridan for O'Reilly (24), N Marley for McKenna (36), N Reel for McCoy (49).
Referee: Y Duffy (Cavan).