Armagh LGFA have announced the appointment of Edendork native Ronan Murphy and St Paul’s Lurgan clubman Tommy Stevenson as their new senior county team management for 2020.
Top trainer Stevenson was previously part of the Armagh ladies management ticket in 2008, working with some of the present panel, while Murphy is a new name in Orchard circles.
A long-serving senior footballer for his club Edendork before hanging up his boots, Murphy represented Tyrone at Minor and Under 21 level and also played Sigerson Cup for St Mary’s Belfast.
The 47-year-old, who teaches at Assumption Grammar School in Ballynahinch, has coached and managed a range of teams in the past decade, most notably steering Ballyhegan’s men to Armagh Junior Championship success in 2017.
He has taken the Davitts from the basement section of Orchard football to achieve and maintain Intermediate status having previously managed Tyrone clubs Eglish, Killeeshil and Lissan, winning several league titles along the way.
Although he has coached extensively across both genders at underage level in his own club and in a school setting, Murphy has had no formal management roles in ladies football to date and will bring a fresh perspective to his new role.
His new colleague Stevenson’s involvement with Armagh ladies football dates back more than a decade when he and Jim Finnegan took the Orchard ladies to the NFL Division One semi-finals.
More recently, through running Armagh City Hotel’s Health and Fitness Club, Tommy has had regular contact with a number of Orchard county players who work out at the facility.
A renowned strength and conditioning coach, 47-year-old Stevenson has worked with a range of county teams from Armagh and elsewhere since 2001 and has been Derry club Lavey’s sport and physical development officer for the past decade.
Fitness fanatic Stevenson, who participated in RTE’s ‘Special Forces: Ultimate Hell’ series earlier this year, has also competed in iron man events and will ensure the Armagh ladies squad is in superb physical condition for the new season.
Meanwhile, former Ulster basketballer Murphy is a keen cyclist and triathlete who also takes a scientific approach to sports performance and has worked closely with the Sports Institute of Northern Ireland (SINI).
Announcing the new Armagh management ticket for 2020, county chairperson Sinead Reel endorsed the pair’s credentials and wished them well at the Orchard helm.
“I’m delighted to have a strong senior county management team for next season in place by mid-October, warmly welcome Ronan and Tommy to their positions and look forward to working with them in the time ahead.
“Since becoming county chairperson two years ago, I have worked tirelessly with the support of my excellent committee to take Armagh ladies football forward with ambition and hard work and ensure everything is the best it can be.
“The evidence can be seen in our ongoing McKeever Park project at Killean, a ground-breaking development which is the first of its kind anywhere in Ireland and represents a long-term commitment to our county teams.
“We have secured vital and much appreciated investment in Armagh ladies football at all levels from our various sponsors and through other initiatives such as the Friends of Armagh Ladies initiative.
“Resourcing our senior county team and equipping them to compete effectively at the highest level is a top priority and, as a former player, lifelong supporter and in my current role, I am passionate about the Armagh ladies side and proud of their achievements.
“We are fortunate to have a group of talented, dedicated, professional players, some of whom have given outstanding service over very many years, and I believe Ronan and Tommy will leave no stone unturned in working with them to secure success.
“Tommy is a familiar face locally and, given his reputation, I have no doubt he will work everyone very hard and ensure the fitness of the Armagh ladies squad is second to none in 2020.
“Ronan may be a new name to many in Armagh ladies football but I have been very impressed with his hunger for what will be a fresh challenge, and the evident work ethic he will bring to the role will ensure he is up to speed in every respect.
“Although he hasn’t held frontline roles in ladies football previously, Ronan is an experienced and ambitious manager and doing our due diligence on him has provided positive affirmation regarding his personal qualities and professional approach,” said Sinead.
Meanwhile new manager Ronan Murphy, whose school Assumption Grammar has a strong track record in the field of female sport, has spoken of his admiration for the thriving ladies football code.
“Nobody could fail to notice and applaud the massive strides which the sport of ladies gaelic football has been making over recent years, with greatly increased crowds, unprecedented profile and an ever-raising bar of professional standards.
“Armagh has a proud record in ladies football over the past decade and a half and, from working within the county lately albeit in the men’s game, I have an awareness of the energy and ambition there is to push forward.
“So when the opportunity presented itself I was keen to put myself forward for consideration. In the course of this process I have been very impressed with Sinead’s drive and ambition for Armagh ladies football.
“I understand the importance to any county of their flagship senior team and, along with Tommy, will work tireless to justify the faith that Armagh LGFA have placed in us. We look forward to meeting and the players and starting to work with them,” said Ronan.
His colleague Stevenson, who has travelled to Armagh ladies games as a supporter in recent years, is also looking forward to the challenge and working with the county’s top female footballers again.
“Ever since being part of the county management more than a decade ago and gaining an insight into the high standards the players set themselves, I have held Armagh ladies footballers in the highest regard
“From that previous experience with Armagh and dealing with some of the players in another environment more recently, I am acutely aware of the high calibre of individuals involved, their dedication and pride in the orange jersey.
“Armagh has some outstanding athletes and a dynamic mix of experienced players with great records in the game and exciting young talent who want to come through and make their own mark in the sport.
“With Sinead at the helm, these are exciting times for Armagh ladies football and, along with Ronan, it will be a privilege to play our part in trying to ensure the county team realises its full potential and achieves the success they deserve,” said Tommy.