February 24th, 2023


Richard Bullick

Dromintee dynamo Aoife McCoy is set to make her 100th Armagh appearance when the Orchard crew host neighbours Monaghan this Sunday with the aim of making it three wins from three so far in NFL Division Two.

Armagh recorded their second consecutive victory under new manager Shane McCormack at the weekend but had to fight hard to see off a spirited challenge from newly-promoted Roscommon at Kiltoom to follow the away win in Cavan seven days earlier.

The hosts were two up by the time Niamh Coleman registered Armagh’s first point in the 12th minute and the Orchard outfit fell four behind before quadruple All Star Aimee Mackin’s much-needed first goal of the season.

It was level 1-6 to 0-9 at the break with skipper Kelly Mallon and Aimee Mackin each chipping in with two points and the latter’s younger sibling Blaithin joining Coleman in raising a white flag.

Aimee Mackin put Armagh ahead for the first time at the start of the second half but undaunted Roscommon quickly levelled and retook the lead before Mallon equalised once more for the visitors.

The Rossies edged in front yet again but the elder Mackin cancelled out that point and then converted a penalty after 41 minutes to give the Ulster champions the relatively luxury of a one-goal advantage.

Points from subs Niamh Marley, Alex Clarke and Catherine Marley in the middle period of the half doubled the Orchard advantage before Blaithin Mackin rounded off the scoring, giving Armagh an eventual victory margin of seven.

They now meet Monaghan this Sunday in their first home match of the season, possibly an Athletic Grounds double header with the Armagh men, on what is set to be a special occasion for the 28-year-old McCoy as she joins a fairly exclusive Orchard centurion club.

Twice crowned County Player of the Year, in 2015 and 2017, McCoy has missed only seven of 106 Armagh matches since making her Orchard debut as a teenager at the start of February 2014 in that season’s opening National League game.

McCoy was axed from the squad for the last two NFL fixtures in the spring of 2016 because she was heading to America that summer, when she missed Armagh falling at the first hurdle in both the provincial and All Ireland Senior Championship.

Ironically, the other three matches she has sat out, in each case due to injury, have all been against Sunday’s opponents Monaghan – the 2017 Division One relegation play-off and two last year, the NFL fixture and subsequent clash in an All Ireland group game.

It is testament to McCoy’s consistently high standards that she has started all but two of her 99 Armagh matches to date, having been rotated for one NFL fixture in 2015 and not been fit to take the field from the off in that season’s All Ireland semi-final defeat to Dublin.

Now in her 10th season of senior inter-county football and a first choice forward under six different managements, McCoy has won four Ulster Senior Championship medals along with NFL Division Two and Three titles.

Named in the NFL Team of Division Two for 2018, McCoy belatedly got a national All Star nomination for last season having won an Irish News Ulster All Star for the 2020 campaign and also previously collected a Gaelic Life Ulster Club All Star.

If Aoife features against Monaghan, she will join just nine players who have reached the 100 appearances milestone to date, including current captain Mallon and present fellow panellists Sarah Marley, Niamh Marley and Caroline O’Hanlon.

O’Hanlon holds the all-time record for Armagh appearances but has yet to feature in the orange jersey in the current campaign, though she did play her first netball match of the year on Saturday as Leeds Rhinos lost their pre-season friendly away to Surrey Storm.