Donegal’s Niamh McLaughlin: “It’s hard not to get excited about an Ulster final”

Tir Chonaill captain hoping to seal back-to-back titles against perennial rivals Armagh

Donegal's Niamh McLaughlin on the attack against Cavan in last year's Ulster LGFA Football Senior Championship. Pic Philip Walsh.
Donegal's Niamh McLaughlin insists they don't feel like underdogs ahead of Sunday's Ulster Senior final against Armagh

THE pride and excitement of pulling on your county jersey on Ulster final day is still as palpable now as it was the first time for Donegal captain Niamh McLaughlin.

She will lead her side out in Clones on Sunday as the defending champions meet Armagh for the sixth time since 2018 in an Ulster Senior Championship final.

There might only be two teams in the competition such are the highs and lows that county teams experience but McLaughlin says it still has its spark and they are looking forward fighting it for silverware with the reigning Division One league champions.

“We are all looking forward to the game. It’s hard not to get excited about an Ulster final, it’s obviously a big occasion,” said McLaughlin.

“Ulster has always been very competitive, and I know even though it’s only us and Armagh, I think there is still a really high level of competitiveness there.

“Any day you get to play in an Ulster final is going to be a great and it’s an honour to represent your county on those occasions and any other occasions.”

Last year Donegal went into the final as underdogs, they had just been relegated from Division One, replaced by Armagh who had won Division Two, who were hotly tipped to win a fourth consecutive Ulster title.

Maxi Curran celebrates with Niamh McLaughlin following Donegal's win over Armagh in this year's Ulster Senior Football final
Maxi Curran celebrates with Niamh McLaughlin following Donegal's win over Armagh in last year's Ulster Senior Football final

However, Donegal undone them, and deservedly so, to win by four and become Ulster champions for the first time since 2019.

Despite being the holders, once again it is Armagh who will start as favourites following their Division One success earlier this year, but the underdogs tag is something McLaughlin says that Donegal have not though about.

“We don’t see ourselves as underdogs, we haven’t talked about that at all.

“We are just going into the game with the same mindset that we would any other game and that we are just going to try and bring everything together that we have been doing in training and looking forward to it.”

McLaughlin is one of the older players in John McNulty’s side and the experience the Moville player brings to her side on occasions like these is crucial.

The county has once more had to adjust to losing players, among them some hugely experienced ones, but McLaughlin is positive about how they embraced that change this season under McNulty, who himself is in his first year.

“New management in, new ideas, new voices, which has been refreshing but obviously we’ve had a big turnover in players.

“In Donegal, there probably has been turnover every year with players and maybe some a bit more experienced, who haven’t come back as they come to a natural end and that just happens at times and that is sort of where we are at at the minute.

“We had a good league run in the end, and with a largely inexperienced squad, but it has been really good to blood new players in, players that have never been involved in a county panel before, getting experience and I suppose we are trying to look towards the next three to five years so it’s really important to get those girls that experience.

“We are just trying to build on that and keep the standards high and build on the future for Donegal football.”