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All-Star for Young Armagh hot shot Mackin

November 16, 2015

Richard Bullick

Teenage sensation Aimee Mackin crowned a fairytale first senior season in the orange jersey with a deserved All-Star at Saturday night’s Dublin banquet.

Named at left-corner-forward, the 18-year-old scoring machine completed the ceremonial line-up at the Citywest Hotel where she become only the fifth Armagh player ever to make the sport’s most cherished cut.

But her Armagh captain and fellow Camlough galactico Caroline O’Hanlon’s hopes of being honoured for a fourth time were predictably dashed as the Cork midfield duo got the nod for the No 8 and No 9 jerseys.

Although O’Hanlon had another impressive season, her exclusion had been expected considering both Briege Corkery and Rena Buckley had made the All-Ireland Players’ Player of the Year shortlist of three and the All-Star selectors were unlikely to ignore such an opinion poll.

Corkery followed in 2014 champion O’Hanlon’s footsteps by claiming the top title of All-Ireland Player of the Year, the first individual to have won this award for a second time.

The formidable Rebelette duo have each an incredible 16 senior All-Ireland winners medals, 10 in ladies football and another half dozen in camogie, having both been part of Cork’s double this season.

If an Ireland line-up was being named tomorrow, O’Hanlon would undoubtedly be in the starting team but Buckley, often forgotten in Corkery’s shadow, has now won All Stars in both her sports within the space of seven days.

O’Hanlon’s effective elimination from consideration undoubtedly boosted Mackin’s chances as it seemed unlikely All-Ireland semi-finalists Armagh would come away with nothing, though Galway and Donegal might have felt likewise and were wrong.

In the end it could be argued Armagh broke Donegal hearts for the third time this year because as well as the Orchard crew inflicting their only two defeats of 2015, Mackin’s inclusion came at the expense of their prolific forward Geraldine McLaughlin.

McLaughlin was Donegal’s great hope having fired them to a first Ulster title this summer after previously propelling Termon to All-Ireland Senior Championship success at club level last December and she had won Ladies Footballer of the Year at Friday night’s GAA Writers Awards in Bundoran.

On that occasion she pipped Mackin to the top prize but this time the boot was on the other foot as the new Queen’s student got the No 15 jersey in a full-forward line completed by Lyndsey Davey and Valerie Mulcahy.

With no disrespect to the other nominees it always seemed like those four for three places and, as the third player on the shortlist for the individual award alongside O’Hanlon’s midfield rivals, Davey was a hot tip for one spot.

After being controversially overlooked last year for her sixth All-Star, it would have been a big call to omit Mulcahy again on the back of her seven points in September’s All-Ireland final, albeit six came from frees and she also had a few wides.

But McLaughlin has had an unforgettable 12 months and Mackin an extraordinary debut year with Armagh which saw her reach her century of scores in the All-Ireland semi-final defeat by Dublin.

McLaughlin can count herself unlucky but Mackin’s scoring statistics are astonishing especially considering she was still at school up until June and is regularly juggling gaelic with playing international soccer for Northern Ireland.

She hit 16-54 in 13 Armagh matches for a tally 47 points in excess of her closest challenger at the top of the Orchard charts including top-scoring in her first four National League games and 10 times in total..

Her Armagh goal tally was twice what anybody else managed, Mackin also netted twice in Ulster’s interpro final win and rattled up huge hauls for Armagh Minors and at club level for Shane O’Neill’s who she captained to the Intermediate county final.

McLaughlin was relatively quiet against Armagh both times thanks to Caoimhe Morgan and in comparison to team-mate Yvonne McMonagle – both of whom weren’t even shortlisted – and ultimately lost out for the All-Star to Mackin who won Player of the Match on each occasion and hit 2-5 in that NFL Division Two final, her first televised outing.

So disgruntled Donegal left empty-handed in spite of their first ever Ulster Senior Championship success as somewhat surprisingly did Connacht champs Galway who took Cork to a replay in the NFL Division One final and were some people’s All-Ireland tip only to be beaten by the champions at the last eight stage.

Only six of the 10 counties represented on the shortlist actually picked up All-Stars, with none of All-Ireland Intermediate title winners Waterford’s three nominees making the grade nor Leitrim giant Aine Tighe.

The top two teams, who contested the All-Ireland final for the second year running, understandably dominated in taking two thirds of the places between them with champions Cork claiming half a dozen All Stars and Dublin a quartet.

Monaghan goalkeeper Linda Martin finally picked up a well-deserved All-Star and attacker Cora Courtney got her third so the Farney women were well represented considering they lost the Ulster final and didn’t make the All-Ireland semis.

Along with Armagh there were two other counties with single recipients, full-back Aislinn Desmond representing the other beaten semi-finalists Kerry and Mayo ace Cora Staunton landing her recording equalling 10th All-Star.

After failing to make the crucial cut last season some wondered whether the most prolific forward in the sport’s history’s chance of emulating Kerry’s Mary Jo Curran might have gone but the everygreen Mayo markswoman has reached double figures this time at the expense of Cork’s All-Ireland winning captain Ciara O’Sullivan.

Staunton was unstoppable in Mayo’s near upset of Galway in this summer’s Connacht final but almost surprisingly proved human as her team then fell to a painfully heavy defeat by Kerry next time out.

As well as the midfield duo and Mulcahy, this year’s Cork All-Stars are a trio of defenders – All Stars newcomer Marie Ambrose, Vera Foley and one of their legends Geraldine O’Flynn who was honoured for the sixth time but both Brid Stack and Deirdre O’Reilly lost out.

The four from Dublin are skipper Davey, her predecessor Sinead Goldrick who has now won four on the trot, centre half-back Sinead Finnegan and her fellow first-timer Carla Rowe in the half-forward line alongside Courtney and Staunton.

Six of this weekend’s victorious crew were winning their first All-Stars, Ambrose being in her first inter-county season like Mackin, while there are six survivors from the 2014 line-up.

Provincial champions Ulster only got three All-Stars in contrast to seven for Munster, the four Dubs representing Leinster and, because Galway’s five nominations came to nothing, Staunton is solely flying the flag for Connacht.

Waterford’s Aileen Wall and Louth’s Kate Flood respectively picked up the All-Ireland Intermediate and Junior Player of the Year awards with Cavan woman Abby Brady inducted into the LGFA Hall of Fame.

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