A SUPERB defensive performance and the abilities to grab goals at crucial times were paramount as Donegal won the Ulster Ladies title for only the second time ever.

Donegal 4-11 Monaghan 0-15

Geraldine McLaughlin (pictured above by Geraldine Diver) played a skipper’s role with 2-6, while her sidekick Yvonne McMonagle was also in superbly creative form. Roisin Friel’s goal set Donegal on their way.

At the back, Donegal kept the goals out to add to their title win of two seasons ago.

The side managed by Michael Naughton grabbed a goal on four minutes, which deflected in off Sharon Courtney from Roisin Friel’s shot following a centre from Karen Guthrie. It gave Donegal a 1-1 to 0-1 lead and eight minutes later, there was further reason for cheer.

McMonagle won the race against Linda Martin in the Monaghan goal to bravely punch home a second Donegal goal. The Glenfin forward finished off a move that had involved Niamh Hegarty and Katy Herron and Donegal were 2-2 to 0-2 in front.

Donegal almost grabbed a third goal on 13 minutes only for Martin in the Monaghan goal to save from Geraldine McLaughin after an inventive crossfield pass from McMonagle, who was at the corner-flag.

Then, when Niamh Hegarty hit the Monaghan crossbar three minutes before half-time, Monaghan survived the follow-up as Rosemary Courtney blocked McMonagle’s rebound on the line. However, Herron’s clipped 45 released McMonagle in space and she squared for McLaughlin to slap in a third Donegal goal.

Ellen McCarron, the sister of Monaghan forward Jack, kept the Farney County in touch with four points, while Caoimhe Mohan also pointed for Monaghan.

Those two goals were enabling Donegal to keep Monaghan at arm’s length. Aoife McColgan in the Donegal goal, though, was certainly the reason for her team having kept Monaghan out with two fine stops – firstly from Ciara McAnespie and then to get the better of the same player again.

At half-time Donegal were 3-5 to 0-9 ahead.

Monaghan might’ve felt they needed a goal to get right back into it after the break, but it was Donegal who posted it. From a defence-splitting ball from McMonagle, McLaughlin got away and although her first effort was blocked, McLaughlin buried her second attempt following a pass from Friel.

With Donegal looking good at 4-5 to 0-10 it was imperative that they kept their concentration, particularly in a 10-minute spell when Niamh Hegarty has been sin-binned for dissent. That forced Donegal to sit in but McLaughlin came within a whisker of her hat-trick goal.

A superb Grainne Houston ball set McMonagle and McLaughlin away two-on-two with the former punching the ball over back over her own head. That sort of expansive play was a feature of Donegal’s play all afternoon. McLaughlin drew the trigger but her effort flew over the crossbar and not under it. It was a let-off for Monaghan.

Eighteen minutes from time, McMonagle slapped into the Monaghan net from Herron’s ball in but referee Conor Dourneen signalled for square ball.

Donegal, by then, were 4-8 to 0-11 in front and although Monaghan continued to press, Donegal held firm with McColgan saving from Lauren Jones late on to ensure the clean sheet.

Donegal: Aoife McColgan; Treasa Doherty, Emer Gallagher, Nicole McLaughlin; Therese McCafferty,Ciara Hegarty, Aoife McDonnell; Katy Herron, Karen Guthrie (0-2, 2f); Grainne Houston (0-1), Niamh Hegarty (0-1), Eilish Ward; Roisin Friel (1-0), Geraldine McLaughlin (2-6, 4f), Yvonne McMonagle (1-1). Subs: Paula McGroary for Friel (41), Deirdre Foley for Ward (56)

Monaghan: Linda Martin; Rachel McKenna, Josie Fitzpatrick, Shaun Coyle; Aoife McAnespie, Sharon Courtney, Grainne McNally; Cora Courtney (0-1, 1f), Eimear McAnespie; Laura McEnaney, Ellen McCarron (0-8, 4f), Eileen McKenna (0-2); Ciara McAnespie (0-2), Caoimhe Mohan (0-1), Rosemary Courtney (0-1). Subs: Rebecca McKenna for Coyle (41), Lauren Jones for E McKenna (48),

Referee: Conor Dourneen (Cavan)