Ace forward Geraldine McLaughlin insists Donegal can cope with the hype ahead of Sunday’s historic Lidl National Ladies Football League Division 1 final against holders Cork.
McLaughlin and sidekick Yvonne McMonagle were reunited at the end of February, when the latter returned from her travels.
And, as Donegal blazed a trail to the weekend decider at Parnell Park, the inside forwards have been simply unstoppable.
They started together again for the first time against Monaghan towards the end of March, McMonagle scoring 1-3 and McLaughlin adding 0-6 in a one-point victory.
A week later, the pair combined for 3-10 as Sunday’s opponents Cork, admittedly in experimental mode, were put to the sword in Mallow.
Donegal went on to beat Mayo in a rearranged fixture to secure top spot in Division 1, with McMonagle and McLaughlin collecting 3-9 between them.
And in the semi-final victory over Galway, the pair went to new heights, McLaughlin notching 4-4 and McMonagle adding 1-4 against the Tribeswomen.
In total, that’s 12-36 over four matches, or 3-9 on average, providing proof positive, if any more was needed, how much of a threat they pose to Cork.
Donegal’s rise has been rapid, progressing to the top-flight decider having claimed Division 2 glory last year.
But McLaughlin, who scored 3-8 for Termon in their 2014 All-Ireland senior club final win, admitted: “We didn’t expect any of this. Our aim was to stay up in Division 1 and now to be in the final is something that we could only dream of.
“We didn’t even believe we could do it at the start of the year. Now, to be in it, is just a huge achievement for us.”
McLaughlin revealed that manager Micheál Naughton requested complete buy-in at the start of the campaign.
In recent years, some Donegal players have opted to travel at various stages, leading to disrupted preparation, but McLaughlin confirmed: “When everyone came back, we said that it’s either 100% commitment or nothing, they’re either in or they’re out.
“Instead of people coming and going, Micheál said he wanted players there for the whole year and we can build our championship team in Division 1.
“So that was our aim, and everyone bought into it.”
On current form, Donegal could yet emerge as senior championship dark horses, and McLaughlin believes they have the strength to compete.
She reflected: “In other years, you’d be scraping to get 15 good players but this year, we have depth in our panel.
“There are subs who would start in any team in the country. Our standard is coming from training and games. We don’t go out in games hoping for the best, it’s coming from the training field.”
And McLaughlin insists that Donegal can cope with growing levels of expectation, and interest in their exploits.
She said: “I don’t mind, when you’re training with the girls, you can’t take the credit for what they’re doing either. You take it in your stride, every day and every game.”
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