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TG4 Ladies All Ireland Senior Championship Playoffs

TG4 Ladies All Ireland Senior Championship Playoffs
Donegal 0-11 Down 1-9

Sunday 26th July 2009
Breffni Park, Cavan at 5pm

Referee: Tony Lennon, Dublin

The Down Ladies team progressed to the next stage of the TG4 Ladies All Ireland Championship qualifiers with a single point win over Ulster rivals Donegal in Breffni Park on Sunday that will have tested the blood pressure of even the most ardent Down fan.

Playing in horrid weather conditions, both teams were slow to get out the starting blocks but it was the Donegal Ladies who finally hit the first score with midfielder Anita Doherty firing over on the 8th minute from in front of the posts. Donegal increased their lead to three points thanks to quick scores from Niamh Hegerty and Anita Doherty as the half way point approached. Down’s Kyla Trainor finally got Down on the score sheet after 15 minutes though, followed swiftly by team mate Aileen Pyers. With the worsening weather conditions providing problems for both teams, the half was marred by errors on both sides and a multitude of frees. The Donegal Ladies finished the half the more clinical of the two teams, with points from Aoife McDonnell and Moville’s Niamh Hegarty respectively, leaving them with a three point lead going into the break. Half time, Donegal 0-5, Down 0-2.

What ever the Down management said to their charges at half time had the desired effect as the mourne ladies came out firing on all cylinders with a cracking goal in the opening minutes of the second half from Lisa Morgan. The Castlewellan player received the ball thirty yards out from Lynsey Cunningham before heading straight for goal and firing a belter straight into the top right hand corner giving Donegal ‘keeper Roisin McCafferty little chance. With the teams level and playing in vastly improved weather conditions, Eilish Ward restored her side’s lead on the forty minute mark, as every ball was keenly fought for. Cara Laverty was unlucky not to hit a second goal for Down as her strike came back off the cross bar on the next attack but her team mate Orla Fegan did fire a fine score to bring the teams level once more. The game started to turn in the mourne ladies favour on the half way mark as Michaela Downey and Aileen Pyers fired over a brace of points each to give them a three point cushion. As the game approached its final minutes though, Donegal fought their way back through points from Karen Guthrie, Grainne McCafferty and Niamh Hegerty, leaving the sides level and sixty seconds on the clock.

Down pushed once more up the field, with Michaela Downey finding Aileen Pyers with a pass from midfield. The Annaclone player collected the ball, turned and duly fired over the crucial score. As the Down supporters held their breath for the final seconds, Donegal secured possession but were beaten by the sound of the hooter, sending Down fans into raptures and their team into the next stage of the TG4 All Ireland qualifiers.

Speaking after the game, Down Captain Eliza Downey was understandably delighted saying, “we knew coming into the game that Donegal were a quality side and they provided a very stern test for us today. As a team we showed a lot of character today in challenging conditions and every player dug deep when it really mattered. We’re delighted with the win but we know that we need to up our performance for the next round so we’ll regroup and focus on the challenge ahead.” The Down management duo of Paul McShane and Sean O’Hare reflected their captain’s comments with O’Hare saying, “with the bad weather conditions especially in the first half, today was all about getting the result which we’ve done. During the key spells of the game, we showed tremendous tenacity, especially in the back line and our forwards really stepped up in the second half to get the crucial scores. We’ll look forward to the draw for the next round now and will be working hard over the next few weeks in preparing for who ever we face next.”

Down team: Brenda Russell, Aine Keary, Eliza Downey, Niamh Lennon, Kerrie O’Neill, Sinead Murphy, Sinead Fegan, Kyla Trainor (0-2), Fionnuala Carr, Lynsey Cunningham, Lisa Morgan (1-0), Orla Fegan (0-1), Michaela Downey (0-2), Aileen Pyers (0-4), Chara Laverty. Subs used:. Jenna Connell, Grainne McClean.

Donegal team: Roisin McCafferty, Terese McCafferty, Olive McCafferty, Grainne McCafferty, Ciara Hegerty, Deirdre Foley, Lorin Malarkey, Aoife McDonnell, Anita Doherty, Niamh Morrison, Karen Guthrie, Niamh Hegerty, Eilish Ward, Diane Toner, Teresa Doherty.

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