March 2nd, 2022


Richard Bullick

One of the few players in the Armagh matchday squad for this month’s opening National League game against Tyrone who didn’t make it onto the field in Derrymacash during the Orchard’s convincing victory was Aveen Donaldson Bellew.

With his Orchard crew comfortably on top, Armagh manager Ronan Murphy made multiple changes in the second half but an appearance from Bellew would have been something of a miracle considering she just gave birth to her first child 32 days earlier!

However, the fact Bellew was allocated the orange No 30 jersey came as welcome confirmation that the experienced Crossmaglen club captain isn’t ready to call time on her inter-county career just yet in spite of the recent arrival of son Danny.

Given that the primary school teacher has admitted she thought about hanging up her Armagh boots during the first coronavirus shutdown in 2020, her commitment to returning this season at the age of 33 is testament to the positive vibe in the Orchard camp.

Opting to continue when inter-county football resumed the autumn before last proved a rewarding decision for Aveen as Armagh reached the All Ireland semi-finals before winning the Ulster title for the first time in six seasons.

Along with picking up her first Ulster Senior Championship medal, Bellew was named in the Irish News Ulster All Stars line-up as the icing on the cake, though the woman herself felt Monaghan great Cora Courtney merited a place in midfield.

Ultimately, with online voting used to determine who made the final team from a published shortlist of contenders in each sector, inclusion came down to populist support rather than the deliberations of a selection panel.

There is no doubt that Bellew was a popular recipient, not just based upon topping the poll but the many warm messages of congratulation posted on the Crossmaglen Rangers Facebook page in the hours which followed.

As Aveen Donaldson, she had been around the county panel on and off for many years as somewhere between a fringe figure and a lucky charm whose only two starts for Armagh had come in the Orchard outfit’s first ever victories over the sport’s Big Two of Dublin and Cork!

Those historic wins came in 2016 and 2017 respectively, but it took until the year she turned 30 for Donaldson to begin establishing herself and a busy summer saw her get married to county team physio Dermot Bellew between Armagh’s two 2019 All Ireland group games.

The second of those was the first time Armagh had defeated Cork in a championship match but Bellew’s best run in the orange jersey undoubtedly came the following autumn when she was an ever-present during a memorable Orchard campaign.

Wearing the iconic No 9 jersey so synonymous with the incomparable Caroline O’Hanlon over many years, Bellew alternated between a defensive midfield role and centre half back, allowing the swashbuckling Baithin Mackin latitude to attack.

Bellew started Armagh’s opening game of last season, which didn’t take place until late May due to the pandemic, but didn’t feature thereafter for reasons that became clear in due course though she did remain part of the set-up for the rest of the year.

When Armagh played Tyrone in their first fixture for a second year running, less than nine months after that Omagh match, Bellew was accompanied by her month-old son, though it wasn’t Danny’s first time around the Orchard camp.

The baby had been the centre of attention with his large group of unofficial footballing aunties at the county team’s open day at McKeever Park a couple of weeks earlier, which also doubled up as the official finale to Armagh LGFA’s January Fitness Challenge!

“Danny was just two and a half weeks when we brought him to Killean.  All had been going well, so we went along and it was nice to do the walk to finish up the 100km challenge and also see the girls,” says Aveen.

“The time is flying and it’s hard to believe he’s five weeks old already.  We’re enjoying everything about being parents and he’s a great wee man.  He enjoyed getting out to his first ladies game last Sunday and it was good to see an Armagh win.”

She’s hoping her baby son can be the team’s lucky mascot right through an NFL promotion campaign which could culminate in a first Armagh appearance at Croke Park since the 2012 All Ireland Intermediate decider if the top two league finals are held there again like last year.

Meanwhile, Bellew’s lifelong friend and fellow teacher at St Patrick’s PS Crossmaglen, Sarah Cairns, will be among the headline acts at a charity fundraising gig in the Rangers Hall this Saturday night in aid of Aaron’s Mission To Walk.

Rock for Aaron’s Mission is being hosted by Crossmaglen Rangers as part of an ongoing campaign to raise the £100,000 needed to enable young local boy Aaron Walsh to travel to America for life-changing surgery.

The 5-year-old St Patrick’s pupil suffers from cerebral palsy and diplegia, but the hope is that this surgery could transform Aaron’s life by not only taking away the unpleasant pain he suffers from but also enabling him to walk.

Aaron’s school has been very supportive and the fact talented musician Cairns teaches there is a nice connection with Saturday night’s event, where her fellow footballer Aoife McMahon will also be performing.  Tickets can be obtained online through Klubfunder.


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