Captain Karen Guthrie produced an outstanding performance at Croke Park on Saturday night to give Donegal an opening-round triumph over defending champions Dublin in Division One of the Lidl National Football League.
The Glenfin ace (who finished with 1-4) was a deserved recipient of the Player of the Match award, as the Sky Blues fell to a first competitive defeat since March of last year when Galway got the better of them in the group stages of the League.
Starting with eight of the team that secured a second successive All-Ireland title last September, Mick Bohan’s holders opened the scoring through a Niamh McEvoy point.
However, after she capitalised on a superb Niamh Hegarty delivery, Guthrie – in her 14th intercounty season – fired past Dublin’s skipper on the night, Ciara Trant, for a fifth-minute goal.
While 2018 TG4 All-Ireland Final Player of the Match Carla Rowe ensured Dublin made an immediate response to that setback, Guthrie and the ever-threatening Geraldine McLaughlin ensured Maxi Curran’s visitors remained in the driving seat.
Half-back Aoife Kane and Siobhan Killeen were subsequently on target for the Sky Blues, reducing the deficit to a single point on the first-quarter mark.
Despite Rowe slotting over her second point on 19 minutes, the Donegal challenge gathered further pace in the closing moments of the half.
McLaughlin converted a close-range free and Guthrie added a brace to give Tír Chonaill a 1-5 to 0-5 interval advantage.
Nicole Owens registered a two-point salvo on the resumption to get Dublin back into the reckoning, but a determined Donegal subsequently built up a head of steam. McLaughlin significantly bolstered her tally with three unanswered scores and corner-forward Ciara Grant also found the range to give the Ulster champions a six-point cushion.
The introduction of 2018 Footballer of the Year nominee Lyndsey Davey on 42 minutes was the spark that Dublin needed. Following a neat combination with Rowe, she fired beyond the reach of Aislin Nee with her first touch of the contest.
A final-quarter fightback from Dublin did not materialise, though, as a disciplined Donegal held firm in defence. Given the way she had performed throughout, it was fitting that Guthrie rounded off a memorable Donegal victory with a supremely-executed point in stoppage-time.
Curran: ‘We have players as good as any team’
Scorers – Donegal: K Guthrie 1-4, G McLaughlin 0-6 (5f), C Grant 0-1.
Dublin: L Davey 1-0, N Owens (1f), C Rowe 0-2, A Kane, N McEvoy, S Killeen 0-1 each.
Donegal – A Nee; T Hegarty, E Gallagher, E McGinley; T Doherty, N McLaughlin, N Carr; K Herron, N Boyle; M Ryan, N Hegarty, A Boyle Carr; G McLaughlin, K Guthrie, C Grant.
Subs: N Gordon for McGinley (46), S McGroddy for Boyle Carr (56), R Friel for Grant (60).
Dublin – C Trant; M Byrne, N Collins, E McDonagh; A Kane, O Carey, S Fagan; J Dunne, N McEvoy; K Sullivan, S McGrath, S Woods; S Killeen, N Owens, C Rowe.
Subs: C McGuigan for McEvoy (19), R Ruddy for McDonagh, L Magee for Fagan (both h-t), L Davey for Killeen (42), N Hetherton for Dunne (47), L Carolan for Sullivan (50), K Fitzgibbon for Kane (51), O Nolan for McGuigan (55), L Collins for Woods (58), E Rutledge for Owens (64).
Ref – N McCormack (Laois).
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