By Daragh Small
Donegal manager Maxi Curran believes the awesome work-rate of his players can push them on to greater things this year, after they reached the TG4 Ulster Ladies Football final at the expense of Monaghan on Saturday.
Geraldine McLaughin scored 1-5 while Yvonne Bonner and Eilish Ward also registered goals in a comprehensive 14-point win for the reigning Ulster champions at Healy Park in Omagh.
"One thing underdogs have is to out-work the opponent so we felt if our work-rate matched or surpassed theirs that we wouldn't be far away," said Curran.
"Our girls put in a wild shift in the middle third. You look at all the great sportspeople, even our own Michael Murphy: People talk about the great footballer he is, but it's the attitude and work ethic that separates him from everyone else.
"We try and pass that message on. All the great teams have players who work their socks off."
Donegal were 4-11 to 0-15 winners over Monaghan in last year's TG4 Ulster final, and despite a disappointing showing in Division 1 of the Lidl NFL, they will be favourites to topple Division 2 outfit Armagh in the provincial decider again next Sunday.
Donegal had already beaten Monaghan in the league this year and they were already in complete control, 3-6 to 0-5 ahead, at half-time here.
Ward scored a goal from a penalty after just four minutes and McLaughlin was on target in the 11th minute as the game got away from Monaghan. Ellen McCarron offered resistance while Monaghan drew level briefly but Bonner's goal before the break ensured Donegal were in the clear.
Niamh Callan provided the second-half consolation for Monaghan but Donegal scored seven points in a row on their way to victory. And Curran says they will need to improve further ahead of Armagh.
"We figured we needed a good start to make them come out to play. We got goals early and could have had another couple," said Curran.
"We had figured that they'd set up quite defensive so we wanted scores on the board early.
"We know the talent is there, but it's about bringing the other side to it now and the girls have done that tonight. The girls have given it a huge drive this year.
"We have a lot of work to do. We didn't use every ball brilliantly and we still take wrong decisions. Armagh next week is a different ball game and Aimee Mackin will ask a different question of us."
Meanwhile, Down progressed to the TG4 Ulster intermediate decider, following a 5-11 to 1-11 victory over Fermanagh also at Healy Park on Saturday evening. Jessica Foy scored 1-6 for the winners who face Tyrone in next Sunday's TG4 Ulster intermediate final at Brewster Park, Enniskillen.
Scorers - Donegal: G McLaughlin 1-5 (5f); Y Bonner 1-2; E Ward 1-1 (1-0pen); A McDonnell 0-3; K Herron, SJ McDonald 0-2 each; D Foley, R Friel 0-1 each
Monaghan: E McCarron 0-5 (3f); N Callan 1-0 R Courtney, M Atkinson (f), T Scott (f), E Woods 0-1 each
Donegal: R McCafferty; O McCafferty, N McLaughlin, T Doherty; T McCafferty, C Hegarty, D Foley; K Herron, Y Bonner; SJ McDonald, N Hegarty, A McDonnell; B Gallagher, E Ward, G McLaughlin. Subs: AM McGlynn for O.McCafferty (39), R Friel for Gallagher (44), Blathnaid McLaughlin for N.Hegarty (52), K Keaney for Foley (60).
Monaghan: L Martin; R McKenna, H Kingham, J Fitzpatrick; A McAnespie, S Courtney, E McAnespie; M Atkinson, F Courtney; S Coyle, N Callan, R Courtney; C McAnespie, E McCarron, T Scott. Subs: E Woods for Coyle (52).
Referee: Brendan Rice (Down).