McCAMBRIDGE AND MARLEY HONOURED
Orchard captain Kelly Mallon has hailed Clodagh McCambridge as the best full back in Ireland after the Clann Eireann defender and Lissummon forward Catherine Marley were jointly bestowed with the Armagh ladies Player of the Year title.
McCambridge was consistently superb and the youngest of four Marley sisters to have won the orange jersey a real revelation as Mallon’s side reached the All Ireland Senior Championship semi-finals and claimed the Ulster title for the first time in six seasons.
Although star forward Aimee Mackin hit the headlines nationally with her prolific feats, spectacular points and a couple of stunning goals, McCambridge and Marley are worthy award winners.
Player of the Match in the Ulster semi-final victory over old rivals Tyrone, Dublin-based McCambridge’s goal-saving tackle late on at Parnell Park was crucial to the Orchard outfit’s first ever victory over Mayo.
Catherine Marley applied the coup de grace with a clinching goal in the closing seconds that day to take the orangewomen into the All Ireland last four for the first time since 2015 and the 24-year-old was unquestionably Armagh’s most improved player last season.
So comfortable and indeed dominant is the Craigavon Hospital physio now in big games, it is easy to forget that Catherine only established herself in the Armagh starting team right at the end of the 2019 inter-county campaign.
Drafted into the team for the famous upset of Cork in Tullamore, she struck two superb points in the All Ireland quarter-final defeat to Mayo two weeks later but has really kicked on in the past year as a hard-working wing forward who attacks with real intent.
Mallon herself finished as Armagh’s top scorer in 2020 and the captain credits Marley with winning a hefty proportion of her 25 successful frees with her direct running and willingness to take the high tackles for the Orchard cause.
So Armagh’s inspirational skipper has a very clear sense of Catherine Marley’s value to the team and is also well aware of how formidable McCambridge is from facing the 23-year-old in training.
“From experience, Clodagh is a nightmare to mark and proved that to any opponent she came up against. She won her individual battle in every game this season and assisted others with theirs,” enthuses Kelly.
“She comes to training with a smile on her face and a bounce in her step which is so infectious. Her athleticism is unbelievable, particularly her pace, matched with a great ability to read the game and time the tackle.
“For me, Clodagh is currently the best full back in Ireland,” insists Mallon, a verdict few would argue with, though unfortunately McCambridge is set to miss out on an All Star unless the LGFA reverse their controversial decision to scrap the traditional accolades.
“Catherine returned to county training off the back of a very impressive club campaign and she carried that momentum into her Armagh performances. Again, a fantastic athlete with great pace and ability to cover a lot of ground.
“She just seems to read the game so well that she repeatedly pops up in the right place at the right time. Catherine is a wizard at running at defences and drawing frees. She’s very versatile and could be played in any position.
“Clodagh and Catherine each had a fantastic season for Armagh and deserved to be rewarded for their performances and willingness to do the dirty work for their team. They made a big contribution to what was an encouraging campaign we aim to build upon.
“I’m incredibly grateful to play alongside these two, and indeed all the girls in our panel. Every player takes instruction so well and executes their role in a very professional fashion but also in a way which reflects the passion and pride we all have for the Armagh jersey.”
Someone else particularly well equipped to pay tribute to the pair is Mallon’s predecessor as county captain, Caoimhe Morgan, who was a full back like McCambridge and is Catherine Marley’s eldest sister.
“Clodagh is the smiler of the Armagh group and she always restored my faith in the young. Her commitment and dedication are to be admired and she is a role model for young athletes. Clodagh gets on with her job without any fuss and she is a credit to that very special Armagh jersey.
“I have always said talent will only get you so far, but it is commitment that will set you apart. Clodagh has both in spades and it was a pleasure to play with her,” says Morgan who retired from Orchard duty ahead of last season as is now one of the country’s top pundits.
“No longer just my baby sister but a fully-fledged footballer and working woman, Catherine is testimony to hard work and perseverance paying off. I always knew the talent she possessed and it is great to see her getting her just rewards recently.
“Catherine has been a leading player for our club Lissummon for many years and it is great to see that confidence and ability on the field for Armagh. She is enjoying her football and it shows. It is going to be very exciting to watch her over the next few years,” she enthuses.
Completing the chorus of praise for the award-winning duo is Armagh LGFA Chairperson Sinead Reel, who again lamented the scrapping of the ladies gaelic All Stars for the season just gone.
“Clodagh has had an outstanding year at full back and deserves this award. She’s silent but deadly on the pitch and her individual and team performances this year did not go unnoticed throughout the country, with many pundits recognising her efforts.
“Her ability to win ball ahead of her opponents was a dream to watch and most definitely drove the rest of the team on,” says Sinead, whose sister Sharon shared the Armagh Player of the Year award with the then teenage McCambridge back in 2016.
“Catherine has been a real pleasure to watch this year and has completely come into her own in the half forward position. Having been at the games and watching the replays on television many times, the one thing that stood out to me was the ground Kitty covered.
“Her ability to win ‘dirty ball’ and her consistent team play resulted in many of our scores for other players. Both these girls along with many others on our team most definitely deserve any recognition received. It’s such a pity there are no national All Stars as I strongly believe our girls would have featured very strongly in the nominations and awards this year.”