February 24th, 2023


Richard Bullick

Aoife McCoy couldn’t mark her 100th Armagh appearance earlier this month with a score or two to put the icing on the cake but the new Orchard centurion was showered with well-deserved plaudits after joining that fairly exclusive club.

A disgracefully crude challenge by a Monaghan opponent for which the culprit somehow escaped proper sanction from the referee ended McCoy’s match slightly early but nothing could spoil the occasion for the Dromintee dynamo.

Before posing for photos with team-mates and family members in the Middletown sunshine, the 28-year-old reflected in an interview with LGFA TV match commentator Jerome Quinn on reaching an impressive milestone as revealed in the previous week’s Ulster Gazette.

From making her debut in the opening National League game of 2014, McCoy has featured in 100 out of 107 Armagh matches, missing four due to spending a summer in the United States and three through injury over the years.

Earlier records are patchy but there is reasonable belief that only 10 female footballers in Orchard history have achieved this landmark before McCoy including current skipper Kelly Mallon and Caroline O’Hanlon, who has made more Armagh appearances than anyone else.

The others are the eldest three Marley sisters – Caoimhe, Sarah and Niamh – along with the Clann Eireann trio of Mags McAlinden, Shauna O’Hagan and Sinead McCleary plus Sharon Reel and, most recently, Armagh Harps skipper Fionnuala McKenna.

“It’s a really good feeling to join that club, good company to be in and some of those who had already reached 100 are still playing there so hopefully I can do the same over the next few years and get a few more under the belt,” she reflected.

“If you’d asked me when I joined 10 years ago, I probably wouldn’t have said I could make the hundred mark but I just love the group of girls, even with the transition in and out of players over time.  It’s like a community to me and I’ve best friends on the team.

“It takes commitment and dedication and I know it makes my family really proud too,” said Aoife, who tends to have one of the biggest entourages going, with her proud parents, older sister and husband-to-be all familiar figures on the sidelines at Armagh matches.

They’ve seen her win several Ulster Senior Championships with Armagh and NFL Division Two and Three titles, though her Halloween hat-trick against Tyrone in the 2020 All Ireland group game was behind closed doors due to coronavirus restrictions.

She singles that out as a personal highlight with last May’s dramatic Clones showpiece win over Donegal to clinch an unprecedented hat-trick of Ulster title triumphs standing out from a team perspective, and McCoy is confident there are more good days ahead for Armagh.

“There has been a bit of a change in management this year, that brings new enthusiasm from girls and we’ve got a few new players on board as well who are pushing everyone on and the intensity at training is really high.

“I think if you even watch that match out there today, Monaghan were a very physical team but we brought it back to them as well which shows the heart that Armagh has.  I felt it was a good display from us,” she said.

Armagh haven’t played in NFL Division One since losing a relegation play-off against Monaghan at the Athletic Grounds in 2017, a match McCoy missed due to a knee injury, and she says securing a return to the top table is an important priority this spring.

“We’re not really looking beyond the league this year.  Last season we lost out to Kerry in the Division Two final so we want to get back to Croke Park on April 15 and go one better,” says McCoy, who is set to get married the following week.

Winning some silverware and that all-important promotion would set Aoife up nicely for her big day but, for now, she isn’t looking beyond this Sunday’s trip to Tyrone and the chance to build upon the achievements of her first 100 Armagh appearances.