Aherne absence keenly felt by Jackies
LGFA LIDL National Football League Div 1: Donegal 1-11 Dublin 1-7
If Dublin needed a reminder that nothing can be taken for granted, then their rude awakening came at a cold Croke Park on Saturday night as they suffered their first defeat since last March - by a four-point margin at the hands of Donegal.
It was a night when Mick Bohan went with a relatively youthful side, with former Dublin minor Kate Sullivan handed her league debut in the forward line. The St Sylvester's player battled gamely on the night, but Dublin were crying out badly for seven-time All-Star Sinead Aherne.
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Sullivan's clubmate, who has been handed the captaincy once more for the 2019 season, was certainly missed in terms of her free-taking expertise as Dublin struggled badly off the placed ball.
The introduction of player of the year nominee Lyndsey Davey (pictured above) gave Dublin a spark after the break, the Skerries Harps firefighter finding the back of the net with an expert finish on 45 minutes to bring Dublin to within a score of their opponents.
However, it was the last time Dublin would score and afterwards Bohan was not hiding his disappointment.
'Obviously it's disappointing to lose, but I would be more disappointed about the way we played. A lot of girls got an opportunity to play at Croke Park. It's not the cohesion we would be used to as a group.'
Nonetheless, Bohan was looking forward to fresher challenges.
'Look, we have Tipperary at the weekend and then Mayo two weeks after that, so I'm really looking forward to those games.'
Donegal were led superbly on the night by Karen Guthrie who deservedly captured the Player of the Match award with 1-4. Her precise finish on five minutes, coupled with an injury-time point, would ultimately separate the sides and the Donegal captain was happy to see her side cross the finish line in the end.
'We got a nice start and we came in at half-time with a nice cushion. We expected a bit of an onslaught after half-time, which came, but thankfully we weathered it.
'From 1 to 18 the girls were very solid, but we know we aren't the finished article yet and Dublin will probably tell you the same.'
As mentioned it was a night when Dublin went with an experimental line-up, and while Niamh McEvoy would open Dublin's account on four minutes the Jackies defence were then carved open on four minutes.
A diagonal ball from Niamh Hegarty would find Guthrie who dropped her shoulder and placed a low shot into Ciara Trant's bottom corner.
While Carla Rowe would respond with a point at the other end, Donegal countered with points from Guthrie and Geraldine McLouglin to put a goal between the sides with nine minutes gone in the game.
Dublin, through Aoife Kane and Siobhan Killeen, had narrowed the gap to a single point before Trant was called upon to smother an effort from McLoughlin.
By the the 20th minute Dublin were still were in contention, with Rowe adding her second single of the night. However, Guthrie's steady influence on the game would see the Glenfin player slot over a terrific point from the left to leave Donegal up by 1-5 to 0-5 at the break.
The introductions of Lauren Magee and 2016 All-Ireland winner Rachel Ruddy would give Dublin a much-needed boost, and while Donegal would draw first blood with an early score from McLoughlin, successive points from Nicole Owens would see Dublin apply pressure again.
However, the concession of a series of close-in frees would move Donegal five points clear, with Ciara Grant then scoring off a kickout to leave it 1-10 to 0-7 with 12 minutes having elapsed in the second half.
The introduction of Davey would yield dividends when, off a pass from Rowe, the Skerries Harps club player steered the ball past Aislin Nee into the far corner with quarter of an hour to go.
However, that was to be the last time Dublin would trouble the scoreboard operators, with Guthrie popping up with a sublime point from the left to ensure victory in injury time.
Donegal: Aislin Nee; Tara Hegarty, Emer Gallagher, Evelyn McGinley; Treasa Doherty, Nicola McLaughlin, Niam Carr; Katy Herron, Niamh Boyle; Megan Ryan, Niamh Hegarty, Amy Boyle Carr; Geraldine McLaughlin 0-6(0-5f), Karen Guthrie 1-4, Ciara Grant 0-1. Subs: Nicole Gordon for McGinley (46min), Shannon McGroddy for Boyle Carr (56), Roisin Friel for Grant (60).
Dublin: Ciara Trant; Martha Byrne, Niamh Collins, Emma McDonagh; Aoife Kane 0-1, Olwen Carey, Sarah Fagan; Jennifer Dunne, Nimah McEvoy 0-1; Kate Sullivan, Siobhan McGrath, Sarah Woods; Siobhan Killeen 0-1 Nicole Owens 0-2(0-1f), Carla Rowe 0-2. Subs: Ciara McGuigan for McEvoy (19min), Rachel Ruddy for McDonagh, Lauren Magee for Fagan (both h-t), Lyndsey Davey 1-0 for Killeen (42), Niamh Hetherton for Dunne (47), Laura Carolan for Sullivan (50), Kate Fitzgibbon for Kane (51), Orlagh Nolan for McGuigan (55), Lucy Collins for Woods (58), Eabha Rutledge for Owens (64).
Referee: Niall McCormack (Laois)