This round one Qualifier was played at sun-drenched Clones on Sunday. Down manager Mark Copeland was forced into making many changes with five of the first team State-side and other first choice players not available. There were championship debuts for Orla Boyle. Sinead Ennis and Shannon Kelly while the Bryansford club supplied seven of the starting fiveteen..
Both teams early attacks registered wides. In the fifth minute Donegal’s Niambh Hegarty opened the scoring with a point. Natasha Ferris got Down on the score-board with a one-pointer but Donegal responded with an Aoife McDonald point and a Niambh Hegarty goal. Down were well in contention at this stage with Clara Fitzpatrick and Sarah Venny getting good possession at midfield, and up front Natasha Ferris, Shannon Kelly Grainne McClean and Kyla Trainor causing problems for the Donegal defence. The Mourne girls had chances to reduce Donegals lead but too many efforts went the wrong side of the posts.
Donega’ls second goal came when Kyla Trainor tracked back to the small square and stopped a hard shot from Roisin Freil but the rebound fell into the path of Yvonne McMonagle who tapped into Down net.
Kathryn Boden, Coleen Magee and Emma Mulhern on the half back line tried hard to break up the Donegal attack and further Down pressure up front paid off when Shannon Kelly off –loaded to Natasha Ferris to pull a goal back for Down. A further Down attack again saw the Alert Ferris chip the Donegal keeper only to have her effort rebound of the woodwork.
Further points from Donegal’s Niamh McLaughlin and Aoife McDonald finished the scoring this half.
Half time score Down 1-1 Donegal 2-5
The second half got off to a brisk start with both sides sending over a brace of points. Grainne McClean cut Donegal’s lead with a point from play and another from a free.
At this stage Donegal started to dominate. Strong running down the centre by Niambh Hegarty and with Yvonne McMonagle and Niamh McLaughlin winning a lot of possession in the danger zone the Down backs were being stretched. This Donegal dominance resulted in two further goals, one a strike from Niambh McLaughlin and the other coming from the boot of Ursla Leonard.
Down had chances to get back into the game but good goal keeping from Roisin McCafferty saw close in strikes from Kyla Trainor and Natasha Ferris getting blocked on the line.
The Mourne ladies were dealt a further blow when a McMonagle thirty metre free dipped suddenly and ended up in the Down net. Three further Donegal points sealed Downs fate and exits them from this years TG4 Championship .
Final Score Down 1-5 Donegal 5-11