THE semi-final line-up in Division 1 of the Lidl Ladies National Football League was finalised on Sunday – as Monaghan relegated Ulster rivals Armagh to the second tier.
Monaghan repeated last weekend’s victory over the same opposition to stay in the top flight for a 26th successive year, as Donegal finished on top of Division 1 after seeing off Mayo.
Donegal had lethal forwards Yvonne McMonagle and Geraldine McLaughlin in brilliant form again as they beat Mayo by 4-13 to 2-11 in Convoy.
Donegal’s win means they will play Galway in the semi-finals in a fortnight’s time, with holders Cork meeting Dublin in a repeat of last year’s semi-final.
Cora Staunton scored two goals for Mayo, including an early effort, but Donegal recovered to take a firm grip of proceedings.
McMonagle netted in the 20th minute to hand Donegal a 1-7 to 1-5 lead and she bagged another brilliant goal approaching half-time.
Ahead at the break by double scores, 2-10 to 1-5, Donegal kicked on in the second half and added two more goals.
Karen Guthrie’s 37th-minute effort opened up a big lead, 3-12 to 1-6, before McLaughlin converted a penalty goal with five minutes left.
Donegal were reduced to 14 players late on when Niamh Hegarty was sin-binned, before Staunton scored a late consolation goal from a penalty for Mayo, who needed a big win to secure a top-four finish.
Donegal’s defeat caps a remarkable group campaign for Michael Naughton’s charges, who claimed five victories from seven outings.
They claimed top spot ahead of Cork (both teams on 15 points), having beaten the Rebelettes in the group stages of the campaign.
Dublin finish in third position ahead of Galway (both teams on 12 points), following victory over the Tribeswomen in Tuam in their final group outing last weekend.
Meanwhile, Monaghan came out on top against Armagh by 3-11 to 2-11, in a superb encounter at the Athletic Grounds.
Cathriona McConnell netted her second goal with less than four minutes to play, finally sealing victory for a Monaghan side that had trailed by 1-6 to 2-4 against the hosts at half-time.
In front of a big crowd, Armagh had much the better of the opening period, cutting through the Monaghan rearguard with ease.
Goals from Blaithin Mackin (13 minutes) and her sister Aimee (24 minutes) looked to have secured a comfortable interval lead, as Caroline O’Hanlon delivered a midfield masterclass.
But Monaghan had a kick left in them before the break, and Caoimhe Mohan netted a crucial goal to bring the Farney girls right back into contention, finishing well after Ciara McAnespie had created the chance.
Within seconds of the restart, McConnell had the sides level and it continued to swing both ways, with Donaghmoyne star McConnell firing home a penalty after a foul on Ciara McAnespie.
That score edged Monaghan a point clear but Armagh levelled the game for the fifth time with a point from Niamh Marley.
Marley was sin-binned soon after and Monaghan took advantage to claim two points in the time the Armagh forward was off the pitch.
The game remained in the melting pot, however, until McConnell bagged her second goal, finishing brilliantly from Ellen McCarron’s defence-splitting pass and taking her personal tally to 2-4 for the day.
Armagh had a 1-5 haul from Aimee Mackin but crucially, Monaghan also had goalkeeper Linda Martin in superb form.
When the dust finally settled, Monaghan had survived, while Armagh return to Division 2 after spending two seasons in the top flight.
Lidl Ladies National Football League Division 1:
Donegal 4-13 Mayo 2-11
Lidl Ladies National Football League Division 1 relegation play-off:
Armagh 2-11 Monaghan 3-11
Lidl Ladies National Football League Division 1 semi-final fixtures:
Donegal v Galway
Cork v Dublin
(Games to be played on weekend of April 22/23)