By Jackie Cahill at Parnell Park, Dublin
Armagh 4-18 Donegal 4-6
Aimee Mackin delivered an attacking masterclass as Armagh steamed past Donegal in this afternoon’s Tesco Ladies National Football League Division 2 final.
Shane O’Neills star Mackin hit 2-5 from play on a day when Armagh leaked four goals but scored four themselves en route to a comfortable 12-point win.
The Orchard County will be playing top-flight football next season after claiming victory in a crucial all-Ulster promotion shootout.
In a repeat of the 2005 Division 2 decider, the outcome was the same as Armagh claimed three first half goals to turn the screw, before adding another in the second half to halt the momentum of a Donegal mini-revival.
And the Ulster champions can now plan the defence of their provincial crown with a first piece of League silverware in ten years in the bank.
Armagh were rocked after just 40 seconds when Yvonne McMonagle, who collected a treble, netted for Donegal but the response was impressive from Daly’s charges.
Mackin responded in kind after eight minutes before Fionnuala McKenna, who also raised two green flags, struck in the 17th minute.
Geraldine McLaughlin scored Donegal’s second goal four minutes before half-time but Armagh pounced with a decisive blow with just 17 seconds remaining on the clock, as Mackin showed a blistering turn of pace to evade the Donegal cover before lashing home her second goal.
That well-taken effort handed Armagh a 3-10 to 2-3 half-time lead and the lead increased to eleven points after the break, as Lauren McConville responded to McLaughlin’s point with a brace of scores.
But Donegal had shown enough in that first half to suggest that they could punch holes in an Armagh defence missing centre back Sinéad McCleary.
Sharon McGroddy had rammed a first half effort off the crossbar and over before Amber Barrett drew a fine save from Katie Daly, the manager’s daughter.
Barrett also blazed wide with another decent goal chance but McMonagle did haul Donegal back into contention with a 38th minute goal and when McLaughlin popped over a free, the deficit was down to six points, with Donegal trailing by 3-6 to 3-12.
Armagh steadied themselves with points from Kelly Mackin and Mackin before McKenna put the result beyond doubt with her second goal, comfortably put away after Kelly Mallon delivered the pass.
McMonagle did pull another goal back for Donegal with eight minutes remaining as the Glenfin full-forward was credited with the final touch to beat Daly.
But it was routine stuff from there until the finish for last year’s beaten All-Ireland semi-finalists Armagh, and they finished with a flourish as Mackin fired over a picture-book score from distance, to complete the rout with just seconds remaining.
Scorers for Armagh: A Mackin 2-5, F McKenna 2-2, K Mallon 0-6 (3f), L McConville 0-2, A McCoy, C Malone & C O’Hanlon 0-1 each.
Scorers for Donegal: Y McMonagle 3-0, G McLaughlin 1-2 (0-1f), A McDonnnell, N Hegarty, S McGroddy & A Barrett 0-1 each.
ARMAGH: K Daly; M Tennyson, C Morgan, S Marley; S Reel, N Henderson, N Marley; C Malone, C O’Hanlon; A McCoy, K Mallon, L Kenny; L M McConville, F McKenna, A Mackin.
Subs: S McCoy for S Marley (44), M McAlinden for McKenna (50), M McGuinness for N Marley (50), T McCoy for McConville (60), S Grey for McCoy (60).
DONEGAL: L Gallagher; D Foley, E Gallagher, Nicole McLaughlin; A McDonnell, C Hegarty, Niamh McLaughlin; K Herron, R Curran; E Ward, N Hegarty, S McGroddy; A Barrett, Y McMonagle, G McLauglin.
Subs: R Boyle for Curran (15), K Keeney for Nicole McLaughlin (h.t.), T Doherty for Ward (h.t.), E McCrory for Barrett (41).
Referee: G Carmody (Mayo)