Magical Macartan's grab title
St Macartan's 3-4 Donaghmoyne 1-8
The Clogher Valley was the place to be on Sunday night as St Macartan's downed Donaghmoyne - targeting a third successive All-Ireland title - to win the Ulster senior ladies' football Championship in sunny Emyvale.
A total of 25 years after their formation, the Ryan McMenamin managed ladies have took out what the former All-Ireland winner described as, "The best team ever" in this code and their joy was a sight to behold as captain Joline Donnelly gave an impassioned and gracious victory speech.
This was a repeat of last year's final that Donaghmoyne won 2-12 to 1-6, but the loss of last year's captain Amanda Casey, who gave birth to a girl on Saturday, and the expecting Catriona McConnell who scored 1-7 in last year's decider, robbed Donaghmoyne of a lot of talent.
Macartan's got off to a blistering start with a goal in the first minute. Cathy Maguire played a kickpass into Chloe McCaffrey who drew in a marker before playing Maguire in to ride a challenge and then blast to the net from point-blank range.
The Tyrone side then played numbers back in defence and frustrated a misfiring Donaghmoyne attack with exemplary tackling. The quality of their defending, with Slaine McCarroll and Lynda Donnelly full of energy, was only bettered by the truly excellent full-back play of Shannon McQuaid, whose exceptional timing meant she hardly gave up a foul throughout.
Another goal arrived on 20 minutes, all down to the bravery of Paula Donnelly who out-jumped Donaghmoyne goalkeeper Linda Martin to palm two-handed a high ball in from Joline Donnelly and it bounced into the net.
The crossbar then came to Donaghmoyne's rescue on the half-hour mark when Chloe McCaffrey got on the end of a McCarroll ball in.
The decisive score arrived in first half injury time. Maura McMenamin forced a turnover that prompted her husband to come on and pat her on the back encouragingly. The resulting possession was worked to Joline Donnelly who provided Paula Donnelly and she executed a tricky lob over Martin's head to leave Macartan's well in top at the interval, 3-3 to 0-1.
And while there was no real wind blowing throughout the game, it was noticeable that either side could only manage a single point in each half.
Francie Coleman, Donaghmoyne's manager made three half-time changes and the Monaghan ladies came back strong, Rosemary and Sharon Courtney getting on a lot of ball as they ran through central channels, panicking the Macartan's defence who grew more vulnerable.
Also not helping the Macartan's cause was the yellow cards awarded to Shauna McGirr on 36 minutes and McCarroll on 42; the ladies' code with the ruling of 10 minutes in the sin-bin for a yellow card leaving them with just 13 players on the pitch for a period. This necessitated alterations from McMenamin, who sacrificed a full-forward line entirely.
Two minutes into the half they had a chance to really put it beyond doubt when Joline Donnelly was upended by Joanne Geoghegan, but Colleen McQuaid's penalty was saved by Martin.
Donaghmoyne then took over the running of the game. They gained only their second point on 38 minutes when full-back Fiona Courtney came up to rifle over. A minute later Niamh McKenna in the Macartan's goal had to be sharp when Eileen McElroy slalomed in for goal attempt.
With three minutes remaining, Niamh McGirr bundled Louise Kerley over for a Donaghmoyne penalty, converted emphatically by Kerley.
However, despite the four minutes of additional time, the Macartan's held on to take their first-ever Ulster title.
ST MACARTAN'S: N McKenna; N McGirr, S McQuaid, M Treanor; S McCarroll, M Donnelly, L Donnelly; S McRory, C McQuaid 0-1; C Maguire 1-1, J Donnelly 0-2f, P Donnelly 2-0; S McGirr, C McCaffrey, M McMenamin
Subs: T O'Hagan for S McGirr (50)
Yellow cards: S McGirr (36), S McCarroll (42)
Red cards: 0
DONAGHMOYNE: L Martin; J Geoghegan, F Courtney 0-1, A Keenan; R Courtney 0-2, S Courtney, J Courtney; H Kingham, C Courtney; G Comiskey 0-1, N Callan, A McElroy; E McElroy 0-1, L Kerley 1-3 (1-0 penalty, 3f), S McConnell
Subs: L Garland, R McConnell and A Garland for Keenan, A McElroy and McConnell (h-time)
Yellow cards: L Garland (59)
Red cards: 0
Referee: Brendan Rice (Down)