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All-Ireland Ladies Football Championship: Meath dash Donegal hopes to set up Kerry decider

Donegal led 1-3 to 0-3 at half time at Croke Park but All-Ireland champions Meath fought back to progress to another decider

Donegal’s All-Ireland Ladies Football Championship hopes were dashed as they were edged out 0-12 to 1-7 by holders Meath in Saturday’s second semi-final.

A Niamh McLaughlin penalty helped Donegal lead 1-3 to 0-3 at half time but the margin should have been bigger.

Meath quickly leveled following the restart and after Maire O’Shaughnessy’s sin-binning then moved three ahead.

Two Yvonne Bonner points helped Donegal get on terms but Emma Duggan’s three late points sealed Meath’s win.

Ironically Meath lost their way after O’Shaughnessy’s return to action as Donegal hit their three unanswered scores as it was only when the All-Ireland champions were again reduced to 14 players following star forward Vikki Wall’s yellow carding that they regained control as player of the match Duggan’s three late scores proved decisive despite Karen Guthrie’s 58th-minute point.

Donegal desperately pressed up on the Meath defense in the closing stages but despite a few nervous moments, the Royal women avoided any late calamities as they progressed to the decider against Kerry, who beat May 4-10 to 0-13 in Saturday’s first semi- finish at Croke Park.

The Ulster county – who surprised Dublin in last weekend’s quarter-finals – had the better of the first half but paid for a number of missed chances – which included two shots coming back off an upright before being cleared.

Donegal look in control after penalty

Geraldine McLaughlin hit Donegal opening two points in the first four minutes – either side of a Stacey Grimes Meath free – and despite their errant shooting, Maxi Curran’s side looked in a degree of control when Niamh McLaughlin fired in her 20th-minute penalty to put them 1-3 to 0-2 ahead.

The awarding of the penalty looked questionable as referee Shane Curley adjudged that Bonner had been hauled down as she attempted to fire for goal after being set up by Geraldine McLaughlin.

Bonner and Katy Herron missed chances to extend Donegal’s lead before Orlagh Lally replied for Meath just before the interval to cut the margin to three.

After their defensive approach in the first half, Meath suddenly cut loose following the resumption as Wall, Niamh O’Sullivan and Duggan scored within three minutes of the restart to level the contest.

With Meath totally on top at that stage, not even O’Shaughnessy’s sin-binning hindered them as three Grimes frees put them three up by the 42nd minute.

But after O’Shaughnessy’s return, Bonner got Donegal scoring again with a towering effort before a Katy Herron point and further Bonner score drew Donegal level.

It took Wall’s sin-binning for Meath to regain their composure as Duggan pointed from play on 52 minutes before doubling their advantage thanks to a placed ball a minute later.

Meath’s attempts to play keep ball saw them gift Donegal a free which was converted by Guthrie but despite more nervous moments in the Royals’ defense as Maxi Curran’s side penned them in their own 21, the All-Ireland champions eventually worked the ball downfield as Duggan fired what proved to be the insurance score.

Full-back Mary Kate Lynch was forced off in the closing seconds after a horrible clash of heads with Donegal’s Niamh Hegarty but Meath held on to repeat their Division One League Final win in April over Maxi Curran’s side.

Aishling O'Connell chips in Kerry's first goal at Croke Park
Aishling O’Connell scored Kerry’s first goal in their dominant semi-final victory

In the opening semi-final goals from Aishling O’Connell and Siofra O’Shea helped the Kingdom lead 2-2 to 0-2 after 10 minutes.

Mayo cut the margin to 2-3 to 0-6 before O’Shea netted her second goal as Kerry led 3-6 to 0-8 at half time.

Kerry’s lead was cut to four but three Louise Ni Muircheartaigh points and a Paris McCarthy goal made the game safe as the Kingdom qualified for a first decider in 10 years.

Corner-forward Ni Muircheartaigh finished the game with 0-5 although there was some concern late on as the star attack picked up a leg injury, which the Kerry management played down after the final whistle.

Shauna Howley’s point gave Mayo the lead after four minutes but O’Connell chipped in a superb goal for the Kingdom with Cait Lynch’s run and perfect pass setting up O’Shea to palm to the net on 10 minutes.

Mayo hit four unanswered scores with Howley (two), Lisa Cafferky and Tara Needham on target but O’Shea’s second goal, with Niamh Carmody the provider, re-established the Kingdom’s control by the break.

The Connacht county hit the first three points of the second half but Kerry notched five of the next six scores – including McCarthy’s goal after a defensive mix-up – to put the game beyond reach.

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