Shane O’Neills will have to contain the threat of a confident Catherine Marley when they host Lissummon this Saturday evening (7pm) in the pick of the Buttercrane Senior Championship quarter-finals.
Finally given an overdue opportunity with Armagh recently, the youngest of four footballing sisters has shown her worth in the orange jersey, especially with two superb points from considerable range against Mayo at the weekend.
Already an effective forward at club level, being part of Armagh’s famous victory over Cork gave the hard-working 22-year-old a real lift and that fresh self-belief shone through at the weekend in Pearse Park.
The two shots she took on were ambitious but correct calls for a forward at this level and the physio not only went for them without hesitation but struck each sweetly with a mix of timing, power and accuracy.
“I’ve been around the county panel for six seasons now, albeit last year was wiped out by my torn cruciate, but playing against Cork and us winning was worth all that waiting and hoping for a decent chance,” she says.
“Since that game I’ve even felt more confident taking shots at county training and likewise when the opportunities presented themselves against Mayo. We’re all gutted about being beaten but the club championship is something to look forward to.”
It speaks volumes for what Lissummon means to the woman known as Kitty that the Orchard outfit’s famous victory is just second in her personal pecking order of cherished victories.
Pride of place still goes to a bewitching Wednesday night in Silverbridge four years ago when her beloved Lissummon came from double digits down to beat Shanes in a memorable Armagh Intermediate decider.
“Our hearts were broken by two late Silverbridge goals in the Athletic Grounds the previous season and, with Aimee Mackin threatening to run riot, it looked like we were going to lose two finals in a row,” she recalls.
However with one of her big sisters Niamh a real force of nature in the second half with a rampaging performance few will forget, the Lissummon tsunami swept Shanes away and an unlikely win was secured.
“People had written us off and we were well behind on the evening but turned it around. My medal meant the world to me and it’s still the best win I’ve ever had,” she insisted, speaking just two days after Armagh had claimed Cork’s special scalp.
“At a personal level I’m very proud to follow my dad and big sisters in representing Armagh which is a huge honour but Lissummon means the world to me and they’re so supportive.
“It isn’t our local club but myself and Niamh have been here all our footballing lives and Caoimhe and Sarah have been with Lissummon for most of their careers so this is home and they’re really good to us and so understanding of our county commitments.”
For many years now Lissummon’s fortunes have fluctuated wildly from match to match depending on how many Marleys line out and their availability is significantly curtailed by county commitments never mind the major injuries each of them has had.
“It’s definitely difficult for a small country club to have four players in the county panel and we’re restricted in when and how much we can play but they’re great about it and we want to give back as best we can.”
The only occasion on which all four Marleys lined out in green this season produced a 6-17 to 0-0 away win at Sarsfields which would have been bigger but for Lissummon opting not to go for goals in the second half.
With Orchard captain Caoimhe Morgan having played with an injury for Armagh on Saturday she must be doubtful at best for Lissummon’s match in Camlough but the other siblings should all line out.
One compelling feature of that 2015 Intermediate final was the battle between Aimee Mackin, on her way to an All Star aged just 18, and Morgan, who was then 12 weeks pregnant.
Given her prolific feats at club level from a young age, Caoimhe holding Aimee to 3-7 on the night was a feat in itself and good enough for Lissummon, so her absence this weekend will leave Shanes with big boots to fill.
Along with Armagh fringe forward Aoibheann Jones, Shanes will look to the brilliant Blaithin Mackin for scores though the 20-year-old will also have her hands full in an all-ginger mouthwatering midfield battle with fellow county star Niamh Marley.
Long-serving club captain Louise Kenny, back from her second cruciate rupture, could be assigned to Catherine Marley while Lissummon may use Sarah Marley to nullify the accomplished Moya Feehan while pushing forward herself.
In spite of now managing Down with Caoibhe Sloan, Peter Lynch remains at the helm for Shanes who he steered to the Intermediate title 12 months after that Lissummon loss in Silverbridge, since when both teams have been in the top tier.
A semi-final against Clann Eireann, who are odds on to win their last eight tie at Grange having dethroned county champions Carrickcruppen in the preliminary round, looks like a lost cause for whoever wins but both clubs will want to get there regardless.
In spite of having home advantage, with Aimee Mackin missing, Shanes are arguably underdogs against a Lissummon side which has now a starting county forward of their own in Catherine Marley never mind the imposing Niamh hoping to bring back bad memories for the opposition.