Donegal bagged three goals to claim north-west bragging rights as they got the better of Tyrone in their TG4 Ulster Ladies SFC preliminary round tie at Kingspan Breffni Park.
Geraldine McLaughlin scored two goals and Niamh Hegarty also found the net as the defending champions progressed, but only after battling to overcome a strong challenge from the reigning All-Ireland Intermediate champions.
Donegal eased into a two-points lead with a Geraldine McLaughlin free and a well worked score from Amy Boyle Carr, and it was Karen Guthrie who made to 0-3 to 0-1 on five minutes. But with Neamh Woods performing strongly in the central area, the Red Hands pressed for scores through Maria Canavan, Niamh O’Neill and Woods.
Katy Herron and Evelyn McGinley won valuable possession around the middle sector as Donegal responded with scores from McLaughlin (free) and Kate Keeney, whose searing drive was brilliantly deflected over the bar by goalkeeper Shannon Lynch.
And in the 20th minute, Maxi Curran’s side opened up a four-points gap when full forward McLaughlin smashed home a superb goal, giving Lynch no chance as her angled shot flew into the top corner of the net.
And at the other end, ‘keeper Aoife McColgan came to her side’s rescue with a wonderful stop from Niamh O’Neill, who looked certain to net.
Niamh Hegarty grabbed a second Donegal goal just before the break to send her side in with a 2-6 to 0-8 advantage, which was increased early in the second half when McLaughlin won a penalty which she slotted home herself.
Aoibhinn McHugh won a Tyrone penalty which Canavan dispatched in the 43rd minute, but Guthrie’s accuracy from frees kept the Red Hands at arm’s length.
Canavan, with another free, brought her tally to 1-8, and Gerry Moane’s side was showing great spirit and determination in the face of adversity, just four behind as they headed into the final ten minutes.
Tyrone centre back Niamh McGirr collected Aoibhinn McHugh’s pass to fire home a spectacular 57th minute goal, but the holders held on to win by four.
G McLaughlin (2-4, 1-0 pen, 0-4f), K Guthrie (0-6, 3f), N Hegarty (1-0), K Keeney (0-1), A Boyle Carr (0-1), R Friel (0-1).
M Canavan (1-8, 1-0 pen 0-6f), N McGirr (1-0), N Woods (0-1); N Hughes (0-1), N O’Neill (0-1), M Mallon (0-1),
A McColgan; A.M. McGlynn, E Gallagher, R Rogers; N Carr, N McLaughlin, T Doherty; K Herron, E McGinley; K Guthrie, K Keeney, A Boyle Carr; N Hegarty, G McLaughlin, S McGroddy. Subs: S McLaughlin for Rogers (h-t), R Friel for Hegarty (h-t)
S Lynch; C Hunter, J Barrett, C Conway; S McCarroll, N McGirr, E Brennan; E.J. Gervin, N Woods; N Hughes, M Canavan, A McHugh; N O’Neill, M Mallon, C Kelly. Subs: D Gallagher for Kelly (43), T McLoughlin for McCarroll (54), S Byrne for McHugh (59).
B Rice (Down).