O’Hanlon hoping for double delight at All-Stars

November 6, 2012

Richard Bullick

Armagh icon Caroline O’Hanlon is in the running for honours on two fronts at this weekend’s ladies gaelic All Star awards night in Dublin.

The star turn in Armagh’s All Ireland Intermediate Championship winning team, Carrickcruppen captain O’Hanlon has been shortlisted for what would be her second All Star, having previously been honoured in 2006.

She is also one of three nominees for the coveted title of All Ireland Intermediate Ladies Footballer of the Year along with Waterford’s Elaine Power and Sharon Treacy of Longford, the teams beaten by Armagh in the semi-final and final respectively.

The 28-year-old Bessbrook woman will be strongly fancied to claim the top player prize having been hugely influential in Armagh’s Ulster and All Ireland Intermediate double, underscored by a commanding display in last month’s Croke Park showpiece.

Although playing at Intermediate level this season, the majestic midfielder would walk into any county team in Ireland and demonstrated her class in being named Player of the Tournament in May as Ulster reclaimed the interpro title.

She was unsurprisingly named in the National League Division Three team of 2012 but the competition for midfield berths in the All Stars line-up will be intense with all five of Caroline’s rivals coming from counties in the senior ranks.

The other nominees are legendary former Cork captain Juliet Murphy, Bernie Breen who skippered Kerry in this year’s All Ireland senior final, Amanda Casey of Ulster champions Monaghan and Dublin duo Sinead Goldrick and Gemma Fay.

Fay is the rank outsider but Goldrick is a strong tip given that she is one of the three players shortlisted for LGFA Senior Player of the Year while multiple award winner Murphy was O’Hanlon’s midfield partner in the 2006 All Stars line-up.

As All Ireland finalists, Kerry will expect to have representation in the XV as will National League champions Monaghan, though both have significant contenders other than Breen and Casey and O’Hanlon has as strong a case as anyone.

Armagh have two chances of getting on the All Stars rostrum this year with Clann Eireann fullback Laura Brown also shortlisted on the back of her Player of the Match award win at Croke Park.

Although she hasn’t O’Hanlon’s profile or proven pedigree through the years, Brown is Armagh’s Most Improved Player of 2012 and arguably faces less competition for an All Star in her department than her county colleague given the tendency for counties to play their leading lights in midfield.

If hospital doctor O’Hanlon makes the final line-up she will become the first Armagh player ever to win a second All Star, having been one of only three previous recipients alongside her then county captain Bronagh O’Donnell of Crossmaglen and Lissummon’s Caoimhe Marley in 2006, the year the Orchard crew agonisingly lost by a single point to Cork in the senior All Ireland final.

Ahead of Saturday night’s glittering banquet at the Citywest Hotel, O’Hanlon has received the backing of another great Armagh midfielder, former Orchard County captain turned respected pundit Jarlath Burns.

In his Gaelic Life column, Burns reflected on the world-class netballer’s superb performance in the All Ireland Intermediate final and admitted: “As a former midfielder, I never fail to be amazed by the sheer work-rate of Caroline O’Hanlon.

“She is a truly remarkable athlete and bossed the game from start to finish – the frequency with which she was on the ball is frightening.  She epitomises the concept of midfield being the engineroom of the team,” he wrote.