Late, late show from Mallon keeps Down in the title hunt
Niamh Mallon came to Down's rescue in spectacular style when she plundered a goal and a point in the dying moments of their All-Ireland intermediate camogie championship group two tie against Tipperary at the week-end.
The Mourne side looked to have shot their bolt when they trailed by 2-14 to 1-13 with the full-time whistle looming but Mallon pounced for a crucial goal before converting a free to give Down a division of the spoils.
Catherine McGourty, who started the game as Down's goalkeeper, was brought outfield for the second half and promptly helped herself to a goal with Dearbhla Savage and Nicola Kelly also prominent in their team's spirited performance.
Manager Martina Rooney hailed her players at the finish but warned that the pressure has now been intensified.
"We have a must-win game against Laois next weekend and we will be strongly focused on stepping up further on our performance if we can," insisted Rooney.
"I think the way the girls responded to this challenge shows their true character, but we know that Laois will have their tails up after their win over Derry."
"They will have gained in confidence but we feel that we can bring our own self-belief to the table. It will certainly be a high pressure game but it's where we want to be just the same."
Laois certainly served up a shock when they travelled to Derry and won by 1-14 to 0-14, thus adding an element of intrigue to group two. Derry had been expected to win the game but Laois showed grit and character in the second half in particular.
There was no joy for Antrim either as they fell to Galway by 4-13 to 1-8 having virtually conceded the game in the first half by trailing by 3-8 to 0-3 at the interval. Bronagh Orchin, Maebh Connolly and Aimee Boyle were missing from the Saffrons' line-up and it was left to Katie McAleese to grab their goal in what proved a salutary experience for the side.
Donegal clinched their place in the Ulster ladies' senior football championship final against Armagh by overcoming Cavan by 0-24 to 2-13 after extra-time in the second semi-final at the weekend. The sides were deadlocked at half-time, Ciara Finnegan's goal helping Cavan to compile 1-6 while Donegal recorded 0-9. A goal from a penalty by Aisling Maguire helped Cavan to stay in contention after the break and it was all-square again at the end of normal time (2-10 to 0-16). But with Geraldine McLaughlin and Karen Guthrie to the fore, Donegal piled on eight further points in extra time to come out on top.
Donegal will now look forward to meeting the orchard county on June 30 and manager Maxie Curren is aware that his side faces another major test.
"It's very tight at the top in Ulster right now and you have got to be on your toes all the time if you want to make progress," insisted Curran.
"We were hard pushed by Tyrone last week and now we have had to come through a difficult match against Cavan. The hope is that these matches will stand to us because you can be sure that Armagh will be up for the final after their semi-final win over Monaghan."
It was Donegal's greater experience that stood to them in the final analysis against a Cavan side that has emerged strongly within the province under the baton of former Armagh boss James Daly.
And Lara Dahunsi stole the show for Antrim in the TG4 Ulster Junior Ladies Football Championship semi-final against Derry by scoring two goals within a four-minute spell at the end of the first quarter which underpinned her team's emphatic 2-18 to 1-5 victory. Antrim led by 2-4 to 1-2 at half-time and inspired by Dahunsi they went on to overwhelm their opponents after the break.
Antrim will now go on to meet Fermanagh for a third time having already played them in a scheduled Division Four fixture as well as in the divisional final only a few weeks later.
Antrim skipper Saoirse Tennyson, though, relishes the challenge of landing the Ulster title.
"I suppose you could say that we have grown familiar with each other over the course of recent weeks," she added.