Oriel and Fermanagh ladies rise to the occasion
Ladies football came to the 2013 City of Culture yesterday as Fermanagh and Monaghan collected Ulster titles at a sun-baked Celtic Park.
The All-Ireland qualifiers will give the vanquished sides a second chance but bragging rights on the day belonged to Fermanagh and Monaghan who both went home with gleaming trophies in tow.
In the Ulster SFC battle, Tyrone lost out to Monaghan 4-16 to 1-10.
Holders Monaghan started favourites to retain their crown against a Tyrone team that have been experiencing some transitional changes in recent times.
Tyrone just managed to edge past Armagh in their semi-final, with Monaghan enjoying a more comfortable margin over Donegal in the other last four tie.
The Red Hands matched their opponents point for point in the first quarter and shared parity on 0-4 a piece after 15 minutes.
Monaghan then struck for two goals, Therese McNally bagging on 17 minutes and Caoimhe Mohan hitting the second 22 minutes in as the holders took a firmer grip on proceedings.
Tyrone, to their credit, battled to keep the Oriel girls at bay and headed for the break still within range on 2-6 to 0-5. The second half was only four minutes old when Monaghan won a penalty that their 'keeper Linda Martin scored in competent fashion.
Monaghan then stroked over a steady supply of points before Gemma Begley gave Tyrone fans something to cheer about when finding the net on 50 minutes.
Monaghan, though, responded in kind shortly after as Cora Courtney rattled the rigging and that essentially closed the door on a Tyrone rally in the closing stages.
Tyrone harvested some late scores but Monaghan emerged as impressive winners to make it 5-4 overall in Ulster final meetings between the two counties.
In the Ulster IFC showdown, Fermanagh got the better of Down, 4-8 to 0-14.
Fermanagh's men may have taken their leave of the championship less than 24 hours before, but the Erne ladies provided a silver lining for the county when winning the Ulster intermediate crown in Celtic Park.
The Erne forward duo of Caroline Little and Edel Campbell had caused Antrim all sorts of problems in the semi-final and the same players carried that hot form into yesterday's decider.
Down's memorable league final victory over Armagh handed them a fancied contender's tag for Ulster honours but Fermanagh felt good about their chances of making a big splash in the competition and so it proved.
Fermanagh plundered all four goals in a sterling first half show that left Down chasing a 4-2 to 0-5 deficit on the turnaround.
Lauren Cunningham, Kyla Trainor and company had lifted Down over the winning line on memorable occasions previously this season but the Mourne team that lined out were unable to reproduce such heroics despite their spirited second half efforts.
Down claimed nine more points but the concession of those four first half goals ultimately brought about their downfall and ensured Fermanagh football had a positive result to celebrate.