It will be a Happy Christmas on the sporting front for Clan na Gael’s mother and daughter combination Brenda and Angela Loughran thanks to December bringing both of them more footballing festive cheer.
Back in September, Brenda picked up her second Armagh Junior Championship medal a full three decades after winning her first with an amalgamated Lurgan team as Clan na Gael lifted the cherished silverware for the first time.
The evergreen 53-year-old corner forward’s 17-year-old daughter Angela won the Player of the Match award for her impressive performance at centre half back in the convincing victory over Clonmore in Portadown.
Last month the duo were among four Clan na Gael players to be awarded inaugural Buttercrane Junior Championship All Stars at the Armagh LGFA Awards dinner in the Carrickdale Hotel.
That was another nice shared moment between Brenda and Angela and now each has something new to celebrate as well as the latter’s call-up to the Armagh senior county panel.
Angela, who recently made the shortlist for the Gaelic Life Ulster Club All Stars, has become the first player in Clan na Gael history to receive an Ulster Schools All Star, one of six recipients from the Orchard county this year.
Meanwhile Brenda’s inspiring story of age just being a number has captured the imagination of the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards judging panel, who have shortlisted her in their Local Heroes category ahead of next month’s Belfast banquet.
That black tie event takes place on the third Monday evening in January at the start of a week which will end with Angela lining out for Ulster Schools in the interpro tournament at Kinnegad, but the Loughrans won’t be complaining about a busy schedule!
“I’m really looking forward to playing for Ulster Schools, with and against the best young players in our sport. We’re going down and staying the night before so it’s all taken seriously,” says Angela.
“We had to come through several stages to be selected, with huge numbers of nearly 200 initially, and the standard was so high. They cut it down to 60 before the third trial and the good news came in an email to the school.”
Incidentally, Angela’s school coach is Clann Eireann’s Niamh McDaid but Tyrone midfielder Emma-Jane Gervin, a 2019 All Star nominee, has been in St Ronan’s this term as a substitute teacher.
“This week we (Ulster Schools) had a challenge game against the Down county team which was useful and we’ll continue training together. Being involved is great experience for me, as is training with the Armagh senior squad.
“Training with Armagh has been tough but brilliant. It’s more serious and high intensity than anything I’ve experienced before, and you’re rubbing shoulders with some exceptional players but they’ve been very good helping us young new ones fit in.”
Brenda reveals heart-warming stories of how Angela’s heroes like Blaithin Mackin and Caroline O’Hanlon have given her warm welcomes and great encouragement and understands the thrill for her being on the latter’s team in in-house games.
“It’s lovely to hear that. Angela’s my only daughter and naturally I think the world of her. She’s a good girl who gives her best at anything she puts her mind to and always wants to learn,” says Brenda.
“This has been an absolutely unbelievable year for Clan na Gael and Angela and I’m exceptionally proud of her getting the Ulster Schools All Star. She even played one of the trials with two broken fingers taped up.”
Meanwhile Angela is also a very proud daughter and has expressed delight with Brenda’s latest recognition, saying: “I’m thrilled that mum has been shortlisted for this award. She’s such an inspirational person and deserves it.”
This is the 11th year since the inception of ladies football’s Ulster Schools All Stars and, in the first decade, a total of 25 pupils from county Armagh had accumulated a total of 49 awards between them, including eight three-timers.
St Ronan’s College, previously St Michael’s, leads the way with nine players accounting for 23 of those awards while St Catherine’s College and St Paul’s Bessbrook have each had 11 awards shared among six recipients.
The six Armagh natives honoured this month are all first-time recipients while Monaghan girl Eimear Traynor, a pupil of St Joseph’s Crossmaglen, has also picked up an Ulster Schools All Star.
Loughran’s Clan na Gael and Chloe Kelly’s Mullabrack bring the number of Orchard clubs who have had an Ulster Schools All Star on their books to 14, Clann Eireann topping the chart with eight players