DOYLE SHINES AS ARMAGH CLAIM TROPHY
ARMAGH 1-14 LONGFORD 2-4
Granemore’s deadly duo again led the way as Armagh Under 16s rounded off a successful campaign by beating Longford in last Wednesday night’s All Ireland C Championship final in Lisnaskea to secure a second trophy triumph of the season.
Lucy Doyle picked up Player of the Match on the back of top-scoring with 1-5 in spite of spending 10 minutes in the sinbin in the second half while her clubmate Ciara Carr weighed in with four points, half of them from frees.
Longford’s second goal levelled the scores eight minutes into the second half but thereafter the Orchard outfit finished strongly, reeling off seven points without reply, two of them by Doyle after returning to the fray.
It was a deserved victory for the Armagh girls, who had scored an unanswered 1-3 after Rachel Quinn registered the game’s opening point for Longford, with Carr causing the opposition problems and setting up Doyle’s goal in the 12th minute.
Armagh had made one change to their published line-up, with Eva Cassidy coming in for her Crossmaglen clubmate Claragh Lenaghan at full forward, though there were two other alterations in personnel from the team which had lifted provincial silverware back in May.
Like Cassidy, who had a broken finger then, Armagh Harps defender Elise Druse wasn’t able to play in that Augher goal-fest final against Derry, while Mallaidh Loughran didn’t start that day after her heavy knock which had forced the original game to be abandoned.
All three returned to a reshuffled side with the most significant positional switch seeing Killeavy’s Siofra Doherty go into nets in place of Dromintee’s Emma Murtagh with Granemore’s Fiadhna Loughran and Lenaghan the others to drop out.
Carr kicked an equalising score in Lisnaskea before Grainne O’Rourke, daughter of former Orchard hero Aidan O’Rourke who manages this team with Killeavy clubman Fergal Greene, put Armagh ahead for the first time after six minutes.
Cassidy also raised a white flag before Doyle got the opening goal of the evening only for Longford to hit back with a penalty, converted by Grace Cullen after a threatening run by Sian Gallagher was deemed by referee David Hurson to have been halted illegally.
Armagh suffered a blow midway through the opening period when Derrynoose forward Caoimhe McNally had to leave the field injured, her place being taken by Lenaghan, but the Orchard responded with two more scores by Carr, one of them from a free.
Two Longford points sandwiched another by Doyle, though the Orchard crew could have been further ahead as both Crossmaglen forwards were denied by good saves in injury-time by Longford goalkeeper Siobhan McDonagh, keeping the score 1-6 to 1-4 at the interval.
After a scoreless seven minutes at the start of the second half, Doyle registered the opening point for Armagh but Longford responded right away with an equalising goal by Elena O’Reilly to leave it all square.
Sub Rebecca Cunningham, who had bagged a brace of goals after coming on in the Ulster decider, put Armagh back in front a few minutes after being brought on here and the team in orange never looked back.
Erin Murphy and Lenaghan followed suit to give Armagh a single-goal cushion with 11 minutes remaining and, although Doyle was now in the bin, the Orchard defended effectively and some poor option-taking in terms of shot selection didn’t help Longford’s cause.
The only Orchard concession in the entire second half was that second Longford goal with strong performers including Druse, younger sister of Harps star Emily who made her senior Orchard debut last season just after turning 18.
Having failed to reduce the arrears, Doyle’s return to the field probably demoralised Longford further and she hammered home Armagh’s advantage with two more points either side of scores from Carr and Cunningham.
Fiadhna Loughran had come on for Lenaghan in the later stages with Armagh’s fourth substitution being the introduction of Caoimhe Feehan from Shane O’Neills in place of Derrynoose corner back Caoimhe Hourican.
There was a great geographical spread in this squad with no fewer than 13 clubs represented in the panel of 25 including Ballyhegan, Silverbridge, Eire Og and Cullyhanna who had one unused sub each in this All Ireland C final.
Killeavy led the way with four starters, supplemented by two apiece from Derrynoose, Mullabrack and Granemore plus single representatives from Shanes, Harps, Clann Eireann, Dromintee and Cross with four of those clubs also having a player coming off the bench.
Armagh had won their subsidiary Ulster final on a 7-11 to 7-6 scoreline after a fantastic comeback from finding themselves seven points down at the second half water-break, with Carr and Doyle scoring 3-6 between them.
Cunningham came off the bench that day to bag a brace of goals, Caoimhe McNally hit 1-1, the other green flag was raised by Clann Eireann’s Aoibhin Donohue and Killeavy’s Annie Stanfield scored three points from wing back.
Unlike the Orchard county’s senior side and Under 14s who have been crowned provincial champions in 2022, Armagh Under 16s and Minors weren’t even allowed to compete for the Ulster title this season.
A combination of Armagh finishing just sixth in last season’s provincial championship in both age groups and Ulster LGFA’s change of format meant the young Orchard crops of 2022 being placed in a subsidiary competition with Derry, Down and Fermanagh.
The two Orchard teams teams lost their round robin match against Derry but both bounced back to claim silverware with a revenge victory in the final and now the Under 16s have followed up by lifting a trophy at national level having seen off Limerick in the semi.
In previous seasons, ending up in the third tier would have felt like a failure for Armagh but this year is different in that both these teams were excluded from the elite level and it is to the credit of the Under 16s that they have achieved the best outcome open to them.
On a night that Dublin were crowned All Ireland Under 16 champions by eclipsing Cork 4-12 to 3-9 after extra-time and Kildare took the B title by beating Tipperary 3-11 to 1-8, the Orchard victory has still generated a degree of feel-good factor.
Armagh Minors now have the opportunity to emulate the achievement of the Under 16s, starting with an All Ireland C semi-final against Clare this Wednesday (7.30pm) at Pearse Park in Longford where the senior side drew with Meath a few weeks ago.
ARMAGH: Siofra Doherty (Killeavy); Caoimhe Hourican (Derrynoose), Sinead O’Neill (Shane O’Neills, capt), Elsie Druse (Armagh Harps); Mallaidh Loughran (Mullabrack), Erin Murphy (Mullabrack; 0-1), Annie Stanfield (Killeavy); Meabh Greene (Killeavy), Eadaoin Trainor (Killeavy); Aoibhin Donohue (Clann Eireann), Ciara Carr (Granemore; 0-4, 2f), Grainne O’Rourke (Dromintee); Lucy Doyle (Granemore; 1-5), Eva Cassidy (Crossmaglen; 0-1), Caoimhe McNally (Derrynoose). Subs used: C Lenaghan (Crossmaglen; 0-1) for McNally (16mins), R Cunningham (Killeavy; 0-2) for Donohue (38), F Loughran (Granemore) for Lenaghan (54), C Feehan (Shane O’Neills) for Hourican (59). Unused subs: Emma Murtagh (Dromintee), Ellie-Mae Carr (Granemore), Rachel McGrane (Ballyhegan), Amy McMahon (Silverbridge), Alicia Roberts (Eire Og), Aoibheann Sheridan (Cullyhanna).
LONGFORD: S McDonagh; K Masterson, R Murphy, A Brady; A Finneran, E Farrell, E Brady (0-1); S Gallagher, E Igoe; S McCormack (0-1, 1f), R Quinn (0-2), G Cullen (1-0, 1-0pen); R O’Neill, M Farley, E O’Reilly (1-0). Subs used: O Sotumbo for McCormack (39), H Burke for Quinn (39), J Robinson for Farley (54), N Hourican for Brady (56).
Referee: David Hurson (Monaghan).