Donegal beat All-Ireland champs to secure home advantage

TG4 All-Ireland Senior Championship

Donegal 1-10

Meath 0-12

By Daire Walsh

Susanne White and Karen Guthrie kicked late points at Pairc Tailteann as Donegal got the better of defending champions Meath to claim top spot in Group 2 of the TG4 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship.

White ended the game with an impressive haul of 0-5, while the outstanding Niamh Hegarty also registered 1-3 in an excellent individual display. Emma Duggan (0-7), Vikki Wall and Niamh O’Sullivan (0-2 each) flew the flag for Meath, but the Royals face an away trip in the quarter-finals as a result of finishing second in the group.

Although O’Sullivan and Duggan (free) pointed for Meath in the early exchanges, Donegal sparked into life after corner-forward Hegarty hammered the ball to the net on eight minutes off a Katy Herron pass.

White swiftly added to their total with a pointed free, before the in-form Hegarty also raised a white flag to give Donegal a 1-2 to 0-2 cushion at the end of the opening quarter. The influential Duggan and Katie Long cancelled each other out with points at either end, in advance of the aforementioned White and Hegarty bolstering their personal tallies.

While Meath did fire back from here with three points on the trot courtesy of Duggan (two) and Meadhbh Byrne, a White free on the stroke of half-time offered the O’Donnell County a 1-6 to 0-6 interval advantage.

Yet despite Donegal kick-starting the second period with another Hegarty point, Wall and her Dunboyne club-mate Duggan split the uprights to keep the Meath challenge alive.

Donegal interrupted this scoring sequence with another White free, only for the wind-assisted Royals to restore parity by the 46th minute thanks to three unanswered points via the boots of O’Sullivan, Duggan and Wall.

The visitors then breathed a sigh of relief when Meath’s Byrne had a goal disallowed for a square ball, but Maxi Curran’s side were suddenly back in sight of a second consecutive group win when White knocked over another free on 55 minutes.

Meath also lost midfielder Aoife Minogue to the sin-bin at this juncture and having been replaced at the break, Guthrie was introduced off the bench for a second time to edge the northern outfit two points in front during the dying moments.

Duggan’s seventh point cut the gap down to the bare minimum, but Donegal held out to earn themselves a home quarter-final.

Scorers – Donegal: N Hegarty 1-3, S White 0-5 (5f), K Guthrie (f), K Long 0-1 each. Meath: E Duggan 0-7 (6f), V Wall, N O’Sullivan 0-2 each, M Byrne 0-1.

 DONEGAL: C Friel; N Carr, A Temple-Asokuh, E Gallagher; A Boyle Carr, Nicole McLaughlin, T Hegarty; R Rodgers, Niamh McLaughlin; S White, K Long, K Dowds; N Hegarty, K Herron, S McGroddy. SubsK Guthrie for McGroddy (20), N Boyle for Guthrie (h-t), C McGarvey for Long (52), Guthrie for White (58).

MEATH: M McGuirk; A Sheridan, MK Lynch, K Newe; M Byrne, S Ennis, N Gallogly; M O’Shaughnessy, A Minogue; M Thynne, V Wall, E Duggan; O Lally, S Grimes, N O’Sullivan. SubC Smyth for Byrne (58). 

Ref: Declan Carolan (Armagh).

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