Maxi Curran and Damian Devaney are key to Donegal ladies football success
TG4 All-Ireland Senior Championship
DONEGAL captain Karen Guthrie feels they are learning so much from managers Maxi Curran and Damian Devaney this season and that was the key to finally reaching the TG4 All-Ireland Senior Championship semi-final for the first time.
The Ulster champions were made to work hard for their semi-final berth after being pushed all the way by Armagh in Saturday’s quarter-final in Omagh.
They led 0-11 to 0-5 at half-time but with 10 minutes left the sides were level 0-16 to 1-13. However, Eilish Ward and Niamh Hegarty sent over two crucial points and they played the possession game extremely well with Ward hitting an all-important third point to see them over the line.
Guthrie came on with a few minutes to go, a niggle ruling her out from being able to start, but her appearance late on certainly roused both the Donegal supporters and her team-mates.
With Donegal waiting to take a ’45, Guthrie ran straight over to Niamh Hegarty who was preparing to take the kick offering a little nugget of advice as they looked to see the game out.
“I told her just to be steady,” said Guthrie. “We wanted to keep possession; we are very strong in possession and we have a lot of steady heads.
“We are very comfortable in and around the 45 and we wait to the pockets open up and that’s all we had to do at the very end and Eilish [Ward] came on a great score to just settle everybody at the end.”
Guthrie expected the game to be tight and Armagh to throw everything they had at them and she certainly cut a relieved figure at the final whistle.
“Armagh are no duds; they were in an All-Ireland quarter-final, they were down to the last eight and they were always going to pose us a serious threat.
“We knew that was going to come and it was just about how we would ride it out. The girls were fabulous.”
After three successive quarter-final defeats, Guthrie and the rest of Donegal are now looking forward to preparing for a first senior semi-final in two weeks’ time.
“It’s a huge relief,” she admitted. “I think we are smarter probably than we had been in years previous.
“Everyone asks what’s the difference now in the quarter-final but we have put a massive amount of work into how we play and the decisions we make on the ball.
“Our ability was never really in question, it was just the wee things that caught up with us on the day and we are learning every single day that we are out with Maxi and Damian.
“We are picking it up as we go and that is why we are in the semi-final, I think we have that wee bit more resilience now, we are a wee bit smarter and we have worked hard at it.
“We have worked seriously hard since the 19th November.
“Everything else in our lives has been sidelined so it’s nice now to see that we are a step further than last year.”