Crossmaglen’s McConville making her own mark

June 15, 2015

Richard Bullick

She has quickly established herself as a significant footballing force for Armagh and by all accounts Crossmaglen’s Lauren McConville makes her presence count off the field too.

A bustling forward with deceptive pace and physical strength, the dynamic McConville is equally lively around the team environment and already at the heart of the Orchard culture of fun alongside dedication.

A compelling mimic who enjoys performing, McConville is promising to make a splash at the team’s forthcoming fundraising Fashion Show at the Carrickdale Hotel on June 27.

“People will have to buy a ticket to see for themselves but I can promise a few surprises and there’ll be a promotional video coming up,” laughs Lauren.

Significant fundraising may feel like a necessary evil for inter-county teams in ladies football but teams which enthusiastically embrace this side of their business “can have a bit of craic along the way which all helps build team morale and camaraderie.”

The Queen’s student embodies that positive spirit and having her on board has been a breath of fresh air for experienced colleagues with over a decade of service in county colours.

Although McConville mischievously references colleagues getting old, the shared sense of purpose and lack of a jarring generation gap in this Armagh set-up is striking and there’s evident mutual respect between the old heads and young guns.

The compelling mix of youthful boldness and battle-hardened experience has been proving a winning combination for James Daly’s squad, who have secured back-to-back promotions in the National League either side of being crowned Ulster champions for the first time since 2007.

Still only 20, McConville came into the county panel at the start of last season and has since started every single game with the recent NFL Division Two final being her 23rd competitive match on the trot in the orange jersey.

Having nailed down her Armagh place, McConville has started to earn wider recognition this spring with a first call-up to the Ulster squad before being named in the Team of Division Two at the recent NFL awards night.

“I was absolutely delighted with that and can take confidence from it,” she says of the latter while expressing surprise at her involvement in Ulster’s fourth interpro title on the trot which included a goal in the round robin victory over Leinster.

“I didn’t expect to get asked but it was a great day and a great experience to be part of – and a chance to see some Monaghan girls up close before we play them in the Ulster Championship next month.”

McConville’s recognition was well deserved based on her consistently impressive performances for Armagh and the player admits to having even surprised herself slightly with how well she has done.

In spite of being earmarked for some time as an emerging talent, McConville initially took some persuasion to join the county panel though that wasn’t just because she was set to be the only Crossmaglen girl involved.

“I was a bit reluctant to go as I’d just started uni and was trying to commit to the books but James persuaded me and it feels like a good decision now for I’ve enjoyed it and really developed as a player.

“At club level you’re used to being a focal point as an attacker but with the county you learn to tackle, to track back and make the more complete contribution that’s needed.  The training has been top-class and even from last year to this it has stepped up again.”

McConville is full of praise for the Armagh management team, including clubmate Patricia McAvoy, “each of whom bring something different but they go above and beyond for the team not least Sinead Reel who puts so much into organising stuff for us.”

She has not only nailed down a starting spot in the face of fierce competition for places but made an excellent contribution to Armagh’s most successful period since the mid-noughties which was back-boned by a significant Cross contingent led by Bronagh O’Donnell.

The Crossmaglen ladies legacy doesn’t weigh heavily on McConville as she spent her formative years more taken up with illustrious uncle Oisin and the glory years for the club and county’s men.

“I was so star-struck and I knew everything about those sides,” reflects Jim McConville’s daughter, who doesn’t feel burdened by the famous family name either.

“It’s important to me and something I’m proud of rather than considering it to be pressure or feeling I’ve a lot to live up to.  My family are very supportive and I’ve great friends in the county squad so it’s all good.”

Apart from flying the family flag, McConville has put Crossmaglen back on the ladies football map and young girls locally can now look to her as well as acclaimed clubmate Jamie Clarke.

It has been tough for the current Crossmaglen ladies to follow in the footsteps of a golden generation but McConville is reasonably upbeat ahead of Friday’s Mackin’s Intermediate Championship quarter-final at Lissummon.

Like last year, county football is more likely to provide McConville with her memorable moments in 2015 and that second successive National League promotion has been a very satisfying start.

The heroics of last season have heightened expectations of Armagh but the team rose to the challenge of winning the higher division, sealed by impressive victories over Cavan and Donegal in the knockout stages.

Beating old rivals Tyrone in the Athletic Grounds and then holders Monaghan in a packed Clones in the Ulster final were huge highlights of McConville’s first season in county colours.

“Getting to play Tyrone there was really exciting and thankfully it went well for us and the final in Clones was wonderful for everybody connected with Armagh ladies football.  It’s rewarding when all the hard work pays off and to be part of such an unforgettable occasion made it extra special.

“But now we want to keep pushing on and I know every individual is striving to be the best we can be, to contribute more and to build on the progress we’ve been making,” says McConville who has already kicked 3-10 for Armagh this year.