Armagh most prolific as Mackin comes of age

April 20, 2015

Richard Bullick

Armagh finished their regular NFL Division Two campaign as highest scorers and with the best points difference in spite of suffering two defeats from their seven fixtures.

Obviously the 10-24 crushing of neighbours Down last time out had a fair bit to do with that but so too has the impact made by Aimee Mackin in her first senior season for Armagh.

Mackin doesn’t turn 18 until later this week but the talented teenager has already emphatically come of age for Armagh this spring in topping the Orchard charts with an impressive 10-25 from six National League games.

She made her first Armagh appearance as a point-scoring sub last spring during a brief period in the county panel but has really arrived as a fully-fledged member in 2015 having developed physically in the past 12 months.

Already a proven prolific forward at underage and club level, Shane O’Neill’s star Mackin was brought straight into the starting team by James Daly at the start of this season and rewarded his faith by top-scoring in each of her first four Armagh matches either side of missing the Donegal game due to soccer commitments.

Last time out the youngster hit her first Armagh hat-trick at senior level in the Down demolition less than 24 hours after rattling up a huge haul in leading the Orchard Minors to an Ulster Championship rout of Fermanagh.

Ace markswoman Mackin, who last summer captained the Armagh Under 17s to victory in the inaugural national academy blitz, was typically prolific as both Orchard sides scored 10 goals on consecutive days.

That double header rounded off a whirlwind week in which Mackin had scored both goals Northern Ireland’s Under 19 soccer side managed in their elite qualifying group for the European Championships.

She gave the young greens the lead against England on Easter Monday at Seaview and also rattled the Norway net with a long-distance screamer when captaining her country three days later at Solitude.

Mackin’s hat-trick against Down took her Armagh goal tally this season into double figures with a quarter century of supplementary points, that 10-25 haul placing her well ahead of various Orchard colleagues.

The influential Fionnuala McKenna, moved up to full forward this season, missed three matches with an ankle-injury but led the way with 2-8 against Down to move into second place with an aggregate of 5-18.

Kelly Mallon, moved out to centre half forward, has hit 3-23 including some frees for the first time with last season’s leading scorer, captain Caroline O’Hanlon, on 4-18 so far from five starts.

Dromintee’s Aoife McCoy, such a find for Armagh last year, has scored six goals, the most green flags apart from Mackin, with Crossmaglen’s Lauren McConville contributing 3-6.

Although Armagh finished four points behind both Donegal and Cavan in the final Division Two table, they were the only team to break the 200-point barrier, with 206 compared to totals of 192 and 171 respectively for their rivals.

All three sides had similar points against tallies so Armagh’s points difference of plus 137 was 12 better than Donegal with Cavan 17 further behind though the competition’s primitive regulations meant those sides had to play off for first seeding.

That baffling failure to include points difference as a criteria for determining placings meant Armagh having to wait an extra week to find out the identity of their semi-final opponents.

Westmeath finished fourth on 12 points, with a points difference of only plus seven, three ahead of Kildare in the end though this division was very much a tale of top and bottom half sides throughout.

Meath and Clare ended up on four points while beleagured Down were whitewashed with seven defeats from seven matches, shipping over 40 points per game on average while scoring only  62 in total.

Armagh used 34 players during their League games with no fewer than 31 getting at least one start and several straightforward wins enabled Daly to spread the game-time by making multiple substitutions.

All Star corner back Mairead Tennyson was the only player to maintain the same starting position throughout though Sinead McCleary, Mallon and McConville were also in the initial line-up for every game.

Veteran vice-captain Caoimhe Morgan, newcomer Mackin and goalkeeper Katie Daly missed one game each with Sarah Marley and Aoife McCoy each starting six and coming on as a sub the other time.

All-Ireland Player of the Year O’Hanlon and Niamh Marley both started five and came on once while Louise Kenny featured in every fixture including two appearances off the bench.

Like Kenny, Dromintee’s Shauna Grey benefited from the delayed starts to the season for stalwarts Sharon Reel and Marian McGuinness, in getting four run-ons and being introduced twice as a sub.

After 42 consecutive starts under Daly, McKenna was restricted to four appearances as a result of injury while Reel and McGuinness have only had three between them but the Armagh manager’s big guns have generally played plenty in spite of fielding experimental line-ups.

Opportunities for fringe figures from here on in could be few and far between but Armagh have used this League campaign, particularly home matches against lesser sides, to try out various permutations and introduce numerous new faces.

Mackin and clubmate Moya Feehan have headed a list of seven players who have made their full debuts this spring with a further three getting first Armagh appearances via the bench.

A dozen of those who have featured weren’t part of the panel on duty for last September’s All Ireland semi-final against Cork, including Caitlin Malone who has made a welcome return to county colours.