Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Daly buoyed by successful League campaign

Richard Bullick

A fifth trophy triumph to mark his 50th competitive match as Armagh manager made this month’s NFL finals day a particularly good one for James Daly and his Orchard crew.

Their 4-18 against Donegal was an impressive scoreline to post in any final, but you don’t become a successful football boss by being easily satisfied or losing sight of the never-ending quest for perfection and progress, and so Daly wasn’t getting carried away with his side’s second convincing victory at Parnell Park in the space of 12 months. “Winning Division Two is a good bounce for us and this gets Armagh back up to where we feel we should be but we’re under no illusions that we need to get better to compete every week with the top teams,” says the Dromintee man.

“While playing pretty well we made too many mistakes against Donegal but to go there and win the final by 12 points was a very satisfactory finish to a League campaign which has thrown up plenty of positives not least the developing depth in this squad. “We coped well without Sinead McCleary and when you can bring very experienced players like Mags McAlinden, Marian McGuinness and Sinead McCoy off the bench it shows where we’re at.

“They have been some outstanding prospects coming in these past couple of seasons, there were no retirements from last year and another factor is how what were the younger group when I took over have really grown into it, players like Kelly Mallon who had a brilliant game today. “(Goalkeeper) Katie (Daly) had a phenomenal first half and there’s real leadership throughout the team.  Any team in Ireland would miss McCleary but others stepped up and I must say Sharon Reel had an absolute barn-stormer.

“There’s fantastic competition for places now and as management we’ve options during games to make changes from strength like Mags (McAlinden) coming on for Fionnuala (McKenna) in Parnell Park. “Fionnuala had done well and scored a couple of goals so the change was certainly no reflection on her performance but because Mags gave us someone who could win ball and hold up play a wee bit,” he explained.

Daly is understandably delighted with the forward fire-power his side present possesses, converted full forward McKenna dove-tailing nicely with young scoring sensation Aimee Mackin who is having a fantastic first senior season in the orange jersey with a huge haul of 13-38 from eight Armagh matches. Her 2-5 in the final, her sixth time to top-score for Armagh this season, earned the St Paul’s schoolgirl the Player of the Match award and deserved plaudits from her manager. “Aimee has definitely added a different dimension this season.  In last year’s All-Ireland semi-final against Cork we struggled up front for pace but now we’ve a real threat for teams to worry about,” enthused Daly.

“Our attacking game has been working well lately.  This year we’ve put Fionnuala McKenna in to full forward working with Aimee and brought Kelly Mallon out alongside Lauren McConville and Aoife McCoy. “We probably didn’t take enough of our chances but still scored 4-18 so that’s very encouraging.  We also had quality coming off the bench which underlines the developing depth we have and the fact there’s real options now in terms of the starting team and during games. “There have been a fair few injuries during the league campaign but others have made the most of opportunities and now when nearly everyone is back in the mix we’ll benefit from the extra experience players have gained.

“I think the League campaign should prove positive preparation for our Championship campaign but there’s a lot more work to be done before then and I know the girls are fully committed to keep pushing hard. “There’s so much potential and we all want to make the most of it,” insists Daly, who has lost only eight of his 50 games at the Orchard helm, half of those by the minimum margin.