Ladies: Reel the hero as Armagh pip Donegal in extra time for Ulster glory

May 19, 2024

Armagh's Maebh McCambridge, Grace Ferguson, Niamh Reel and Niamh Henderson celebrate at the final whistle against Donegal ©INPHO/Leah Scholes

Armagh 0-17
Donegal 1-13 (AET)

Niamh Reel kept her cool to hit the winning point with her first touch as Armagh saw off Donegal in yet another epic battle in yesterday’s Ulster Senior Championship Final at St Tiernach’s Park, Clones.

With the possibility of free kicks to determine this provincial decider, Reel fired over a free to put her side into the lead with just over a minute remaining, and it was enough as Armagh clinched a seventh Ulster senior title, winning it back from Donegal who had wrestled it from them 12 months ago.

The Division One champions looked to be on their way to victory in normal time before Katy Herron found the back of the net for Donegal with two minutes remaining and Susanne White, who finished with eight points, levelled from a free in the 59th minute 1-11 to 0-14. They even had a chance to perhaps win it but opted to take a short free and it so it was to extra-time.

The sides went in level at half-time of extra-time after sharing two points each, Niamh Henderson, who was awarded player of the match on target for Armagh and likewise White for Donegal.

Donegal took the lead for the first time since the first minute through Amy Boyle Carr before corner back Grace Ferguson popped over the equaliser. Lezza Cunningham and Lauren McConville traded points as it looked like a freekick shootout was going to be the only way to determine this game before Reel, only on the pitch a minute, hit the winning score.

Armagh led by a single point at half-time, 0-6 to 0-5, but Donegal would have been the happier of the two teams heading down the tunnel, very much still in the game against the favourites.

This was a tense affair. Donegal set up in full defensive mode, with all 15 players behind the ball when Armagh had possession, happy to let them have their own kickout. When Armagh entered the scoring zone, Donegal had two and three players surrounding the Armagh player, forcing them into pot shots, a wide count of 10 telling the tale.  

After early wides, Susanne White got Donegal off the mark from a free in the fourth minute as Aimee Mackin responded for Armagh to level the game and the same two players traded points again, Mackin (free) edging Armagh in front with White replying. Mackin from a free once more and Caroline O’Hanlon put Armagh two points ahead but Donegal captain Niamh McLaughlin brought them back to one on the quarter hour mark.

Kelly Mallon dusted herself off after being fouled to double Armagh’s lead but they just could not shake off Donegal as Amy Boyle Carr and White (free) levelled the game for a third time before substitute Sarah Quigley, who had replaced the injured Louise Kenny earlier in the half, gave her side that slender advantage at the break.

Armagh moved four ahead by the 43rd minute with Niamh Coleman, Aoife McCoy and Mackin all on target as Donegal struggled to convert their chances with some poor wides.

They did finally find the target for the first time in the half in the 45th minute through substitute Eva Gallagher and two from White saw them close in once again. Armagh were dealt a blow with the loss of Mackin to injury, for the second year in-a-row but despite that, they looked to have one hand on the Cup when Mallon, Niamh Henderson and Dearbhla Coleman all raised white flags to move them four ahead with two minutes remaining, 0-12 to 0-8, but Donegal clawed their way back into it again, a high ball in eventually landing to Katy Herron and her thunder shot to the net gave Anna Carr no chance with two minutes remaining. Donegal were in the ascendancy and White kept her cool to send over the equaliser from a free. They did have a chance to find the winner from another late free but opted to play is short and Armagh came out with the ball as the hooter sounded and extra-time loomed.

Armagh magnificent season continues as they head into the All-Ireland series and this victory they will savour knowing how hard they had to fight to get over the line while Donegal must also pick themselves up for the All-Ireland championship.

Scorers for Armagh: A Mackin (0-4 (3f), N Henderson (0-3), K Mallon (0-2 (1f), S Quigley, A McCoy, C O’Hanlon, N Coleman, D Coleman, L McConville, G Ferguson, (all 0-1), N Reel (0-1f)

Scorers for Donegal: S White (0-8, 5f), K Herron (1-0), A Boyle Carr, E Gallagher, N McLaughlin, L Cunnigham (all 0-1)

Armagh: A Carr; G Ferguson, C McCambridge (capt), R Mulligan; C Towe, L McConville, D Coleman; N Coleman, C O’Hanlon; E Druse, A McCoy, L Kenny; A Mackin, N Henderson, K Mallon

Subs: S Quigley for Kenny inj (11), M McCambridge for Mackin inj (45), C Doyle for Druse (50), S Gray for Mallon (58), E Lavery for Quigley (ht et), N Reel for Towe (78), Mallon for D Coleman (79)

Donegal: C Friel; S McLaughlin, A Temple Asoko, E McGinley; K Dowds, N Boyle, T Hegarty; R Rodgers, J McGettigan; C Keon, N McLaughlin (capt), A Boyle Carr; S White, K Herron, K Long

Subs: E Gallagher for Long (43), L Cunningham for Carr, J McFadden for Keon (58), K O’Donnell for Rodgers inj (58), Carr for O’Donnell (ht et), R Rodgers for Herron (75)

Referee: Eddie Cuthbert (Down)

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