Armagh ladies start season in style

February 9, 2015


Richard Bullick reports

Young sensation Aimee Mackin notched 2-3 in the opening half on her first start for Armagh as James Daly’s ladies belatedly got their NFL campaign underway with a bang in Silverbridge.

Westmeath would have travelled with confidence on the back of their 36-point thrashing of Down seven days earlier while Armagh were wary of ring-rust thanks to their scheduled opening game against Donegal being postponed due to the wintry weather.

Like All-Ireland champions Cork, Westmeath had inflicted two of the six defeats suffered during Daly’s first three seasons at the Orchard helm, albeit both away back in the spring of 2012 in NFL Division Three.

But this was payback time and Armagh made short work of a team considered one of their main rivals for the Division Two title and what would be a second successive promotion.

It’s early days yet but this was a very encouraging first outing and an impressive victory which might have been by an even bigger margin but for Daly taking the opportunity to empty his bench in the second half.

Hitting the ground running in emphatic fashion, Armagh were well on their way to getting that Westmeath monkey off their back by the break at which they led 6-6 to 1-5.

The magical Mackin, not 18 until April, led the way with 2-3 with last season’s leading newcomers, Crossmaglen’s Lauren McConville and Dromintee’s Aoife McCoy, also making their mark on the scoreboard.

McConville also netted twice with McCoy registering 1-1 while there was an identical tally from Kelly Mallon in spite of the Armagh Harps player being moved out from her familiar full forward role in a swap with clubmate Fionnuala McKenna.

McKenna kicked one first half point and finished with a haul of five, two from frees, with captain Caroline O’Hanlon landing a left-footed free in the second period and corner foward Mackin rounding off a dream day with a further point.

Mackin’s clubmate at Shane O’Neill’s, Moya Feehan, made her senior county debut in the opposite corner while four more players got a first taste of Armagh action as second half subs –Megan Sheridan of Forkhill along with Ballyhegan’s Brenda McCormack, Tanya McCoy of Armagh Harps and Grange’s Colleen McKenna.

Carrickcruppen’s Sinead Finnegan made a welcome return to the county colours having hopefully shaken off the injury issues which have plagued her career.

There was also a welcome cameo from former Orchard captain Mags McAlinden who along with fellow veteran Sharon Reel has given Daly a big boost by deciding not to hang up their boots after all.

It had been expected that, with the same management team and a settled side coming off the back of a highly successful season, Armagh might have had minimal changes from last September’s All-Ireland semi-final line-up.

But Daly’s first teamsheet of 2015 surprisingly showed a mere three players wearing the jerseys they finished last season with no fewer than eight positional switches on top of four personnel changes.

It was an unfamiliar formation but the unpredictable line-up certainly didn’t take long to gel and Ulster champions Armagh look like they are equipped to build upon the impressive progress made under Daly in previous seasons.

ARMAGH: K Daly; M Tennyson, S Marley, C Morgan; N Marley, S McCleary, S Grey; N Henderson, C O’Hanlon (capt; 0-1, 1f); L McConville (2-0), K Mallon (1-1), A McCoy (1-1), M Feehan, F McKenna (0-5, 2f), A Mackin (2-4).  Subs used: A Carr, R Murphy, C Duffy, M Sheridan, T McCoy, B McCormack, C McKenna, S Feeney, S Finnegan, L Kenny, M McAlinden.