January 26th, 2021


Richard Bullick

The family firm, McShane Packaging, is the headline sponsor of Armagh’s LGFA’s February Fitness Challenge but proprietor Paddy McShane will literally get on his bike as well as metaphorically putting his hand in his pocket in support of the fundraising initiative.

Keen cyclist Paddy will be clocking up the miles on two wheels the next few weeks while his daughter Megan, a former Ulster Schools swimming champion and now county footballer, will be getting the kilometres under her belt by running in preparation for the 2021 season.

The challenge for those signing up to take part is to complete 100 kilometres in the 28 days of February, whether walking, running or cycling, while the proceeds will not only go to Armagh LGFA funds but benefit the Friends of the Cancer Centre charity.

The fee for adults is £20, £15 for under 16s while families of two adults and up to four children can avail of the appealing group price of £50, and there will be spot prizes to be won throughout the month.

Registration is via the KlubFunder website and details can also be found on Armagh LGFA’s social media platforms.  Those taking part are asked to download the Strava app and feed in details of their activities each week.

Armagh LGFA hope to install floodlights at their new McKeever Park base this year so the #LetsLightKillean2021 hashtag is being used on the promotional materials, while the charity aspect is close to Orchard hearts with former county captain Mags McAlinden having battled cancer in recent years.

McShane Packaging has come on board as a corporate partner supporting this February Fitness Challenge, which will also have wider benefits in these disconnected and troubling times with coronavirus still weighing heavily on society and limiting communal activities.

Over the past decade, Paddy McShane has invested a lot of time, effort and money in Armagh Harps ladies football, sponsoring and managing teams from Under 12s up to adult level.

All that commitment felt well worthwhile last September when the Harps senior side, featuring Megan and managed by Paddy, ended a 22-year-wait by claiming the Orchard county title with victory over Carrickcruppen at the Athletic Grounds.

Teenager Megan joined the Armagh senior squad thereafter for a thrilling inter-county campaign which saw the Orchard crew reach the All Ireland semi-finals and be crowned Ulster champions.

Just like he did firstly with her club many years ago, proud dad Paddy has shown support for the Orchard cause through McShane Packaging helping fund the new Armagh kit van and now sponsoring this February Fitness Challenge.

“I seem to get the plaudits but must credit my wife Philippa, a former Senior Championship winner with Harps herself back in the 1990s, who is passionate about us supporting ladies football and doing what we can,” he says.

“Megan playing gives us a direct connection with the game obviously but, through that, I’ve become aware of just how much commitment and talent there is in ladies gaelic football but also how it doesn’t have enough support at all levels.

“For example, Armagh captain Kelly Mallon is a phenomenal local sportswoman we should all get behind and, from managing her at club level, I’ve the privilege of getting to see up close what a complete professional she is – first on the pitch and last off it at training.

“McShane Packaging is proud to be backing this February Fitness Challenge, which will encourage healthy activity as well as raising funds for Armagh ladies football and also a cancer charity so it’s a very positive initiative which, hopefully, plenty of people embrace.

“I’ll be doing the kilometres myself for the Challenge, on the bike.  A few of us started up Armagh Cycling Club back in 2012 and now we’ve some 75 members.  It’s always enjoyable getting out.

“My intention is to get a bunch of our ACC cyclists to do the 100 kilometres all on one day.  All socially distanced obviously and doing it either in pairs or on their own,” explains Paddy.

This writer was impressed by Megan’s mature, responsible, pragmatic attitude to the pandemic in an interview last May after her schooldays at St Catherine’s College had ended prematurely and her A-level outcomes left shrouded in uncertainty.

The coronavirus cloud has lingered longer than we could have imagined then, having to self-isolate prevented young McShane togging out for what would have been her first Armagh match in October and she isn’t getting the full student experience at Queen’s so far.

But McShane is still trying to count her blessings, sees the bottle as half full and knows what she has to be thankful for, though even this spirited 19-year-old admits to growing weary at times of the constraints.

“I’ve happy memories from football in 2020, winning the championship with Harps and then being involved with an Armagh squad which had success.  The schedule was perfect, for I was able to focus fully on club and then throw myself into the county commitment.

“First year at uni has been very different to what it would have been in normal times.  I’d exams before and after Christmas and the new semester is due to start this coming week, but everything is online.  I’m studying from home but still having to pay full rent in Belfast.

“As a teenager, it’s frustrating at times, like early in the new year when we were back in lockdown and I hadn’t much going on.  However, we’ve been given our personal training programmes by county and club so that’s something to get stuck into.

“I’d do a bit of running in conjunction with (Harps clubmate) Tiarna (McVeigh), while observing the health guidelines which are there to protect people.  Now our running can be part of this challenge too.

“We’d be doing our runs anyway but I think the challenge is great as it will encourage others to be active and feel they’re doing their bit both for Armagh ladies and a good cause (cancer charity) too.  With so many signing up, it will create camaraderie and a sense of community,” she says.

Her dad Paddy is also looking on the bright side in that, unlike many, his business, which works closely with the food industry, has thrived during the pandemic and now a programme of refurbishment and expansion is getting underway at his Moy Road premises.

“We had to make some adjustments logistically last spring to ensure Covid compliance and protect staff safety but that was worthwhile because thankfully we’ve had no outbreaks so far at the factory, which is also tribute to the vigilance of each employee.

“In spite of the pandemic, we’ve never been busier, so I really can’t complain at all because many businesses are in a real predicament through no fault of their own,” admits McShane, who has experienced no adverse effects flowing from Brexit yet either.

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