Donegal chasing final spot while Ulster sides battle for promotion and safety

Division One semi-final

Donegal v Cork

(Saturday, TBC)

DONEGAL manager Maxi Curran is a shrewd operator and his first port of call after his side hammered Galway last weekend was to dampen down expectations.

“We may have poked the bear here because they had a team of players up in the stand that would frighten the life out of anybody,” Curran said after their 4-21 to 2-11 win in Tuam.

“We won’t get carried away because we know we have to face these guys again in five weeks’ time and it’ll be a very different Galway team.

“Next weekend (against Cork) is going to be a serious battle for us. It could be a reality check and we could get brought back to earth fairly quickly.”

Curran can only do so much though, because that was a sit up and take notice result even if Galway were down bodies.

Geraldine McLaughlin was back fit and flying and helping herself to 2-7 while the experienced Karen Guthrie chipped in with 2-4. Katy Herron and Nimah McLaughlin also kept the scoreboard ticking over while Aoife McColgan also deserves credit for an excellent save from Nicola Ward early on at her near post.

Cork are still the holders of this title as the competition was not finished last season. They denied Donegal their first-ever triumph with a one-point win in the 2017 final, so the Tir Chonaill know all about the Rebelettes.

The Munster side defeated Waterford to reach this stage, although they were sloppy in the closing stages. They were 12 points up at one point but only won by three in the end.

In truth, they may not have had those issues if a stonewall penalty had been awarded when Katie Quirke was brought down. Manager Ephie Fitzgerald called the performance of the officials “disgusting.”

Verdict: Donegal

Division Two semi-final

Monaghan v Kerry

(Saturday, TBC)

MONAGHAN appear to be finding their mojo again as they target a Division Two final spot.

The 2020 season was difficult but although they lost the Ulster final to Armagh to round off the campaign, they did play really well in the game with Cora Courtney picking up the Player of the Match award.

They have shown incremental progress throughout the league. They could have no complaints with their seven-point loss to Cavan in round one before they went to the Athletic Grounds and grinded out a one-point win over Armagh.

Last weekend, they produced a masterful display as they tore Tyrone to shreds on a 5-15 to 1-11 scoreline. It was no surprise that Courtney was at the hub of everything while Ciara McAnespie and Ellen McCarron also produced big performances. Casey Trainor contributed two goals.

Kerry will be a considerable step up in quality though.

The Kingdom had already sealed a semi-final berth ahead of the final round of fixtures but they signed off with a win anyway as Louise Ni Mhuircheartaigh scored a first-half hat-trick in their 6-14 to 2-7 win over Wexford.

The Kingdom have hit 13 goals in their three group games. Ni Mhuircheartaigh has grabbed five of those while Siofra O’Shea (3) and Hannah O’Donoghue (2) have also had their scoring eye in.

Kerry should win this, but Monaghan will want to at least be competitive as they prepare for the All-Ireland Championship.

Verdict: Kerry

Cavan v Meath

(Saturday, TBC)

GERRY Moane’s impact on Cavan has been instant as they have won all three games to make it through to the knock-out phases.

They got their hardest test of all against Armagh last week, and those are the sort of games the new manager would be loving with the championship season just around the corner.

Aisling Sheridan’s presence really does make this Cavan team a different proposition and her point after just 17 seconds against Armagh was a thing of beauty.

They were pushed throughout the contest though and they had a major let-off in the second minute when Aoife McCoy’s lovely pass found Aimee Mackin in space in front of goal but, to the amazement of everyone at Kingspan Breffni, the ace finisher dragged her effort wide.

Armagh still led at the short whistle though but second-half goals from Sinead Greene and Emma Halton turned things around. Both were the result of fine team moves with Geraldine Sheridan heavily involved each timr, although the second strike did take a deflection before finding the corner of the net.

Meath have been in excellent form. They hammered Wexford and Clare – conceding just 10 points across the two games – while they were competitive against a strong Kerry outfit.

This will likely be one of the closest games this weekend but the Breffni players can continue their winning streak.

Verdict: Cavan

Division Two relegation play-off

Tyrone v Wexford


TYRONE’S failure to hold on against Armagh in round one ultimately proved costly as they face Wexford for the right to remain in the second tier in 2022.

Kevin McCrystal’s side were strong that day in Omagh, especially in the middle sector, but since then they’ve lost heavily to Cavan and Monaghan whilst shipping nine goals in the process.

The Oriel county put five past them last week, but the Red Hands were at least better in the second half in the 16-point defeat. Eighteen points separated the sides at the break, so that second period was an even enough affair with Chloe McCaffrey and Aoibhinn McHugh raising green flags.

They shouldn’t be overly fearful of a Wexford side that really struggled in the Division 2A section.

The Model county did put it up to Clare, but they were torn apart by both Kerry and Meath.

Verdict: Tyrone

Division Three relegation play-off

Fermanagh v Wicklow


IT’S a repeat of last season’s All-Ireland Junior final and Fermanagh will be hoping for the same outcome as they try and send Wicklow into the bottom tier.

That final last December was a tight affair but a goal 13 minutes from the end from the brilliant Eimear Smyth proved decisive in the final tally up.

The Erne county have been fairly competitive in Division 3A, apart from a heavy beating at the hands of Sligo. They gave Roscommon their fill of it while they were just two points shy of Down.

Wicklow went even better as they actually earned a win against Laois. Before that they had lost to Longford by two points and Kildare by the minimum,

Fermanagh cannot expect anything easy here.

Verdict: Wicklow


6 June 2021; Niamh Hegarty of Donegal in action against Sophie Healy of Galway during the Lidl Ladies Football National League match between Galway and Donegal at Tuam Stadium in Tuam, Galway. Photo by Piaras Ó MídheachSportsfile

Shauna Coyle

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