Mallon leads the way as Orchard girls seal Ulster titles treble in epic final win over Donegal

TG4 Ulster Senior Championship Final: Armagh 3-17 Donegal 2-19

KELLY Mallon captained as his late extra-time goal secured Armagh victory by the narrowest of margins against Donegal in an exhilarating encounter at St Tiernach’s Park, Clones yesterday.

It’s a history of three consecutive Ulster senior titles for Armagh and this one is probably the sweetest yet.

With less than two minutes on the clock at the end of regulation time, Armagh trailed by four points, 2-14 to 1-13, but a wayward pass from Donegal’s Roisin Rodgers was mopped up by Armagh and Aoife McCoy played in Aimee Mackin who was thrown into the back of the net before her captain Mallon kept her cool and with her fifth point of the day sent over the equalizer from a free to send the game into overtime.

It was deja vu as the clock ticked down to the end of extra time, Donegal with a 2-19 lead to 2-17 but again Armagh pressed high, Catherine Marley who had been superb all day, overturned the possession, with the ball ending up in the hands of Mallon who passed Roisin McCafferty into the Donegal net to put his side one point ahead. Despite Donegal’s best efforts to find the equaliser, for the second consecutive year they lost to Armagh by one point.

Donegal manager Maxi Curran will certainly wonder how his side lost that game – twice they were in control of their own destiny and twice they failed to see the game, however, Armagh must be credited with having chased every bullet and never gave up. .

Armagh boss Ronan Murphy said he never thought the game had left them given how close it had been.

“At this point, it’s in the hands of the gods. The game had had its ups and downs, so it was always a possibility,” he said.

“You never think it’s over when you have such a talented and committed group of girls. We knew before that how the game was going, that we always got our chances and our purple patches. Those situations come down to the wire, players and a bit of luck too.

“Three titles in a row, we’re delighted. We were very disappointed to lose the league final and not show what we were worth at Croke Park, so that will partly help put that to bed.

“The quality of the football today was second to none. Donegal are a great team and have quality players and we knew if we were there or close to it we would never be far away.

Donegal, chasing their Ulster title since 2019, got off to the perfect start when Geraldine McLaughlin, who won the player of the match award, finishing 1-11, found the back of the net in the second minute. However, four minutes later Armagh led 1-2 to 1-0 thanks to a goal from Aoife McCoy after Mackin intercepted a handful pass from Niamh Carr outside the defence.

Geraldine McLaughlin (free) and Donegal captain Niamh McLaughlin equalized the game before Armagh took three ahead through Mallon (two free) and Caroline O’Hanlon. The game turned in Donegal’s favor in the 26th minute when Niamh McLaughlin finished superbly past Anna Carr, but the sides went level, for the fourth time, at the break, 2-5 to 1-8.

Armagh’s Aimee Mackin gets shot despite pressure from Donegal’s Nicole McLaughlin in Sunday’s Ulster senior final at Clones
Photo: Brendan Monaghan

Karen Guthrie was introduced at half-time for Donegal and her impact was immediate as she put them back in the lead, from a free-kick, in the opening minute and Geraldine McLaughlin doubled her side’s advantage.

Armagh came back and three unanswered points as they punished Donegal by overturning possession saw them take the lead for the third time, 1-11 to 2-7. In end-to-end action, Guthrie and Geraldine McLaughlin again raised white flags past Mallon, whose precision top drawer clearances tied the game for the seventh time in the 43rd minute, 1-112 to 2 -9.

Donegal however found another level and four unanswered points, three from McLaughin and one from Yvonne Bonner who had been led superbly all day by Clodagh McCambridge, put them 2-13 1-12 ahead seven minutes from time. end and the gap was still four with McLaughlin’s 10th point of the afternoon, this one from a ridiculous tight angle, in the 56th minute.

They appeared to be in control, but that wayward pass gave Armagh a lifeline with Mackin’s goal before Mallon reached the equalizing spot to send the game into extra time. At half-time in extra time, Donegal led by two, 2-17 to 2-15 and they still had that two-point lead with three minutes remaining, but Armagh had yet to throw in the towel and Mallon, who scored all Armagh scores in extra time scored the winning goal to break Donegal’s heart.

Armagh: A Carr; S Gray, C McCambridge, C Towe; N Marley, L McConville, G Ferguson; B Mackin, C O’Hanlon (0-1); E Lavery, N Coleman, C Marley (0-1); A Mackin (1-5, 0-2 free), A McCoy (1-2), K Mallon (capt) (1-8, 0-8 free)

Subtitles: T Grimes for Ferguson (46), N Reel for Lavery (50), F McKenna for Coleman (50)

Donegal: R McCafferty; N Carr, E McGinley, T Kennedy; S Twohig, Nicole McLaughlin, A Boyle Carr; K Heron, Niamh McLaughlin (captain) (1-1); Y Bonner (0-1), N Hegarty (0-2), S White; B McLaughlin, R Rodgers, G McLaughlin (1-11, 0-4 free)

Subtitles: K Guthrie (0-4, 0-2 free) for White (ht), T Hegarty for K Herron (ht and), N Boyle for Rodgers, E McCrory for Hegarty (75), K Herron for B McLaughlin (78)

Arbitrator: Gavin Finnegan (bottom)

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