February 24th, 2023


Richard Bullick

Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games competitors Caroline O’Hanlon and Frances Keenan were among the recipients as the Buttercrane All Stars XV for 2022 was unveiled at Armagh LGFA’s club awards night at the Carrickdale Hotel.

Coincidentally, Northern Ireland’s top three netball clubs were all represented as Kingsway’s Meabh McCambridge joined Keenan from Premier League champions Belfast Ladies and Larkfield’s long-serving skipper O’Hanlon in the ceremonial line-up.

Based on performances in the past season’s Orchard club championships, sponsored by Buttercrane, the All Stars side ranges in age from Carrickcruppen skipper Sharon Reel, just short of her 39th birthday, to the towering 16-year-old Eimear McGeown from Wolfe Tones.

The three Player of the Match award winners from October’s county finals are all recognised, with Clann Eireann’s victorious skipper Niamh Henderson joined by Ballyhegan’s Blathnaid Hendron and Maeve Lennon of Derrynoose.

Prolific forward Lennon is joined by two team-mates from Armagh Junior champions Derrynoose, with Ulster Schools All Star camog Sinead Quinn named in midfield and corner back Caoimhe Hourican also making the cut.

They share the highest representation with losing Senior finalists Carrickcruppen, who have O’Hanlon listed at full forward with Reel at centre half back and Megan Cinnamond given the nod for the No 12 jersey.

County champions Clann Eireann have just their elder Henderson sister and younger McCambridge sibling, but Ballyhegan look like the club hardest done by with only Hendron included on the shortlist of 25 never mind the team itself.

That feels like meagre representation for a team which hammered Mullabrack in the Intermediate decider, when Hendron hit 4-10 in the Athletic Grounds, and Armagh’s Grace Ferguson who was so lively in that game is a surprise exclusion.

Crossmaglen’s Lauren McConville was also unlucky not to get a nomination on the back of her herculean effort in the Senior Championship quarter-final loss to Silverbridge given that a few of her Orchard colleagues were listed initially.

High-profile figures who were on the shortlist but missed out on a place in the eventual line-up include current county stars Aimee Mackin, Clodagh McCambridge, Aoife McCoy, Anna Carr, Niamh Coleman and Cait Towe, plus ex-Armagh great Sinead McCleary Kernan.

Although Mackin and McCoy made the 2022 national All Stars shortlist along with Carr, neither of them made a particularly big impact in last season’s club championship, with both Shane O’Neills and Dromahill bowing out in the Senior quarter-finals.

That said, McCoy’s clubmate Megan Sheridan did make the grade, as one of eight players from the Buttercrane Senior Championship, a contingent which included Galway great Sinead Burke of Armagh Harps and young Silverbridge goalkeeper Cailin Traynor.

There were only two players included from the Intermediate tier in Hendron, who like Lennon made her first Armagh appearance in the following day’s National League opener, and the classy Keenan of losing semi-finalists Cullyhanna.

By contrast, there are five representatives from the bottom rung of the Buttercrane Championships with the Derrynoose trio joined by two unfamiliar names in Derrymacash youngster McGeown and Maria Fitzsimmons of St Paul’s Lurgan.

Although international netballers O’Hanlon and Keenan are both primarily midfielders, the Armagh great has been handed the No 14 jersey she wore for ‘Cruppen last season while the Ulster Gazette columnist is in the unfamiliar right wing back berth.

The Buttercrane All Stars side includes just three current county panellists, with the longest-serving player in Orchard history O’Hanlon flanked in the full forward line by newcomers Hendron and Lennon, one of two current Ulster Schools All Stars along with Traynor.

Former Armagh stalwart Reel hung up her orange jersey after the 2018 inter-county campaign, Megan Sheridan has joined Niamh Henderson in opting out at present while Keenan and Meabh McCambridge would be good additions to the panel if interested.

Along with Aimee Mackin, Clodagh McCambridge, McCoy, Carr, Niamh Coleman, Towe and McCleary, the other three players to be shortlisted were Carrickcruppen full back Shannon O’Grady, Ciara Nugent from Derrynoose and Pearse Og player Cliodhna Bevin.

Shortlisting contenders or naming final line-ups for All Stars teams at any level isn’t an exact science so will always spark debate but the concept is a good one and no fewer than 10 clubs are represented in this Buttercrane All Stars side.

BUTTERCRANE ALL STARS: Cailin Traynor (Silverbridge); Caoimhe Hourican (Derrynoose), Sinead Burke (Armagh Harps), Meabh McCambridge (Clann Eireann); Frances Keenan (Cullyhanna), Sinead Reel (Carrickcruppen), Megan Sheridan (Dromahill); Sinead Quinn (Derrynoose), Eimear McGeown (Wolfe Tones); Maria Fitzsimmons (St Paul’s), Niamh Henderson (Clann Eireann), Megan Cinnamond (Carrickcruppen); Blathnaid Hendron (Ballyhegan), Caroline O’Hanlon (Carrickcruppen), Maeve Lennon (Derrynoose).

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