By ALAN GUNN
A blistering start paved the way for Donegal to claim their third successive TG4 Ulster senior title in front of 2,049 spectators in Clones on Sunday.
Donegal got off to the dream start and had 2-2 on the board within three minutes as they left Armagh shell-shocked before going on to deliver an exhibition of football.
Points from Geraldine McLaughlin and Karen Guthrie began the scoring before two goals from Amy Boyle Carr and Niamh McLaughlin – who was back in her county colours for the first time since 2015 following a spell playing soccer in England – got them off to a flying start.
Caroline O’Hanlon momentarily halted the Donegal charge with a much needed Armagh point but Maxi Curran’s side were totally in control and further points from Guthrie and Boyle Carr put them nine clear by the end of the opening quarter.
A sublime pass from Geraldine McLaughlin set up Niamh McLaughlin for their third goal on 16 minutes, and the Moville girl almost had her third moments later but her fisted effort was saved. Armagh looked helpless at stages as Donegal’s movement, speed and link-up play was a treat to watch.
Aimee Mackin struck over a beauty for only her side’s second point after 22 minutes, while frees from Kelly Mallon and O’Hanlon give Armagh some hope before the break, but Donegal were well ahead, 3-5 to 0-4.
Boyle Carr opened the second-half scoring with a point and after Tiarna Grimes fired wide, Blaithin Mackin and Niamh McLaughlin traded points, before Armagh were again denied a goal when Blaithin Mackin saw her effort saved by the boot of Aoife McColgan.
While Armagh missed their chances, at the other end Donegal were taking theirs and they hit 1-3 in a two-minute spell to end any hopes Armagh may have had of getting back into the contest. The goal was a piece of magic from Geraldine McLaughlin after she intercepted an Armagh kickout and sent the ball straight back in over the head of the retreating goalkeeper.
Caroline O’Hanlon found the net at the end of third quarter and Aimee Mackin quickly added a point as Armagh kept plugging away. But yet again Geraldine McLaughlin caught the eye with a stunning finish from a tight angle as the goals continued to flow for Donegal.
Aimee Mackin and O’Hanlon completed Armagh’s scoring while Geraldine McLaughlin brought her tally to 2-4 as Donegal finished with 14 players with a late sin bin for Sinead McGinty. It was impressive from the champions.
Scorers – Donegal: G McLaughlin 2-4 (1f), Niamh McLaughlin 2-2, A Boyle Carr 1-2, K Guthrie 0-4 (3f).
Armagh: 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).
Ref: Y Duffy (Cavan).