Kelly Mallon will be flying the flag for gaelic games as well as road bowls at this Friday night’s Armagh Banbridge Craigavon Sports Awards at the Civic Centre.
by Richard Bullick
The multi-talented Madden sportswoman is the only representative from any of the four codes among the 49 nominees shortlisted across nine categories for the local sporting oscars ceremony.
All Ireland road bowls champion Mallon, who is currently captaining the Armagh gaelic team in the National League, is a worthy contender for the prestigious Sportswoman of the Year title.
Her rivals in the Sportswoman category are golfer Olivia Mehaffey, athlete Emma Mitchell, Commonwealth Games lawn bowler Catherine Beattie, angler Linda Straghan and archery’s Joanne Walker.
Having bounced back from an injury-ravaged 2017, Kelly showcased her all-round ability last year by making a positive impact in each of her sporting pursuits.
Mallon established a new all-time record when she won her eighth All Ireland senior road bowls title last August, with a convincing victory over a Cork opponent in the final.
The previous month, she had seen off the challenge of Erin Connolly and her former Armagh gaelic team-mate Siobhan Mackle to claim her ninth consecutive Ulster title and 10th overall.
In November, the 29-year-old Mallon became the youngest person ever inducted into the Cork-based Road Bowls Hall of Fame and only the third ever inductee, male or female, from Northern Ireland.
Earlier in the autumn, she beat her great international rival, Dutch giant Silke Tulk, in a high-profile exhibition in Boston between the world’s top two female road bowlers.
On the gaelic football field, formidable competitor Kelly completed a decade as a first choice forward for Armagh, scoring a goal, hitting both posts and winning a penalty in her third Ulster Senior Championship final appearance.
She subsequently captained Armagh to qualification for the All Ireland quarter-finals and led them to a narrow defeat in that last eight tie at Healy Park the evening before winning her latest All Ireland road bowls final.
Mallon shone and top-scored as her gaelic club Armagh Harps only lost in injury-time to eventual title winners Carrickcruppen in the Senior Championship and she was shortlisted for the Armagh Division One Player of the Year award.
Her impressive performances for Armagh during the year saw Kelly selected as a starting forward for the Ulster team’s interpro title defence in November.
One of very few players in county Armagh who plays Division One and Senior Championship in both ladies gaelic football and camogie, she has had to turn down the invitation to play at inter-county level in the latter.
At club level, influential midfielder Mallon starred as her beloved Madden came within eight minutes of a place in the Armagh Senior Championship final last season at the expense of the amalgamated Middletown-Derrynoose side.
Although outside the relevant consideration period for these awards, Mallon has made a strong start to 2019, captaining Armagh to convincing victories over Laois, Cavan and Waterford in their first three National League games.
Previously crowned Armagh Sportswoman of the Year on several occasions, Mallon has been a regular on the ABC Awards shortlist since their inauguration and she goes forward with the ringing endorsement of the county’s ladies gaelic hierarchy.
“I would like to congratulate Kelly on her worthy nomination. Not only is she a fantastic athlete but a strong leader both on and off the field of play, obliging, pleasant, hard-working and committed to everything she does,” says Armagh LGFA Chairperson Sinead Reel.
“Kelly is a positive influence to all around her and we are delighted to have her in the Armagh camp as a very influential player and a dream role model to all young females out there wanting to pursue their sport.”
Reel’s sentiments were echoed by Lorraine McCaffrey, speaking for herself and fellow Armagh joint manager Fionnuala McAtamney.
“Kelly is a leader, she is our leader. She is a fantastic role model on and off the field. She is someone that myself and Fionnuala can always rely on to perform on the pitch,” enthuses Lorraine.
“She leads by example, demanding the very best of herself and her team-mates. Her unwavering commitment and exceptional self-discipline form the very core of Kelly Mallon the footballer and captain of Armagh ladies.
“Myself and Fionnuala are delighted that Kelly is getting recognition that she so thoroughly deserves and she would be an exceptionally worthy winner of this award.”
It will be a busy few days for Mallon, who after Friday night’s Awards dinner will captain Armagh in the following afternoon’s National League game against Tyrone at Omagh’s Healy Park and then next Tuesday night her exceptional road bowls career to date will be celebrated in a special event at the O’Fiaich Library.