Armagh face Clare at Dromintee this Saturday (4pm) when what at face value looks like a relatively routine National League game in Division Two will be a special occasion for Aoife McCoy.
Dromintee dynamo McCoy is set for her 58th Armagh start but it will be the first time she’ll have had the honour of running out in the orange jersey at her home club.
In the circumstances McCoy can be forgiven for not being disappointed that the scheduled double-header at the Athletic Grounds also featuring the Armagh men’s match against Fermanagh fell foul of the official celebrations of St Patrick’s Day.
“I’m thrilled to be honest. I’ve never played in an Armagh match at Dromintee at underage level and doing so for the senior side is something I never expected,” enthuses Aoife.
“It’ll be a proud day for me and my family and likewise with my clubmate Shauna Grey. We’ll hopefully pull in a good crowd and it should help push ladies football further here on the back of our Armagh Intermediate title win last September.
“Of course it’s a privilege playing in the Athletic Grounds but hopefully we’ll get a chance to do that against Kerry the following weekend in what should be a great game.”
By then the Orchard crew will have made mathematically certain of a top four play-offs place if they record a fifth consecutive victory this season by beating a Clare side which is winless so far.
Armagh must do without triple All Star Caroline O’Hanlon, who will be lining out the same evening for Manchester Thunder away to Saracens Mavericks in netball’s British SuperLeague, but should still have enough to get the job done.
Double All Star Aimee Mackin, who has top-scored in each of the Orchard outfit’s first four fixtures, is on fire at present and will face Clare fresh from kicking 2-11 for victorious UUJ in last Saturday’s Giles Cup final.
After starting with an away win over lowly Laois, Armagh have recorded convincing victories over Cavan and Waterford before beating Tyrone in difficult conditions in their own backyard last time out.
They have already defeated three of their four fellow Senior Championship sides, with two wins by emphatic margins and the most recent couple of victories coming on the road on successive Saturdays.
The Orchard outfit finish with three home matches on the spin and will be guaranteed top place in the table by beating Clare and newcomers Wexford whatever happens against advance title favourites Kerry in between.
McCoy, who turns 25 next month, has been a first choice forward for four managers since coming into the panel at the start of 2014 and she won Armagh Player of the Year twice in her first four seasons.
With several experienced campaigners having stepped away from Orchard duty over the winter, it means McCoy, in her sixth season as an Armagh regular, must be regarded as an increasingly senior player in this set-up.
“When I first started with Armagh, I was a wee small, thin, weak thing who hadn’t done much conditioning but being in the Queen’s GAA Academy and working with Mike McGurn was a transformative experience,” she reflects.
“The hard work has helped make me more physically confident and I’m quite experienced now and understand what it takes to be an effective county player so I feel reasonably established but I don’t take my place for granted.
“In spite of losing so many recognisable names since last season there’s actually fantastic competition for starting spots at present and I don’t think our start to the season could have been much better.
“We’ve had tough games but came away with good wins. Having (joint managers) Lorraine (McCaffrey) and Fionnuala (McAtamney) back for a second season has helped us hit the ground running but there’s plenty more work to do.
“I suppose we’ve sent out a clear statement of intent early in the season but now we want to maintain momentum in our promotion push after missing out last year and we won’t be taking Clare lightly.
“They drew with Kerry in their opening game and pushed Cavan all the way on their last trip north. Having made the long journey to win in Waterford and then fought past Tyrone we won’t be turning up in Dromintee with a casual approach,” vows McCoy.