April 27th, 2023


Richard Bullick

Louise Kenny would be entitled to raise an eyebrow every time a match commentator repeats the wildly inaccurate assertion that she made her Orchard debut in this season’s opening National League game away to Cavan.

Armagh anoraks will know Kenny played her first senior Armagh game way back almost a decade ago in the 2013 All Ireland qualifier against Cork, a daunting debut for the then 16-year-old, who captained Shane O’Neills to Ulster Junior Championship success that autumn.

With Sarah Marley sidelined by a broken ankle, schoolgirl Kenny started at corner back in Armagh’s run to an unexpected Ulster Senior Championship success the following season, beating three teams who had spent the spring playing two league levels above them.

The last time Armagh won the NFL Division Two title, beating Donegal in the 2015 final, Kenny impressed so much that manager James Daly told me on the Parnell Park pitch straight afterwards that she had nailed down her starting spot for the foreseeable.

Unfortunately, she ruptured her cruciate later that month and, although leading Shanes to an Ulster Intermediate Club triumph meantime, took until 2018 to return to the county set-up, by which time Armagh had been relegated again from the top flight.

It was a short-lived return to the orange jersey as the unlucky Kenny tore her cruciate again that spring playing camogie for St Mary’s University College, leading to another prolonged absence from Orchard duty.

More history was made at club level as Kenny skippered Shanes to their first Armagh league title in September 2020 but, understandably cautious, she didn’t venture back to the county panel until the start of the current campaign.

Centre half back for her club and shaping up as a useful sweeper for Armagh when she got her first big injury, the 26-year-old Kenny has started five NFL fixtures out of seven this season and spent most of her time at corner back.

With Shauna Grey fit again and Clann Eireann’s Cait Towe well established at this stage, there is fierce competition for the starting spots either side of full back Clodagh McCambridge but few would begrudge Kenny her place in the run-on line-up.

Their captain at Shanes for the past decade, Kenny has had to watch clubmates Aimee and Blaithin Mackin making waves with Armagh over the years, including collecting five All Stars between them, and she is well overdue her own taste of the big time.

The PE teacher from Camlough has been on the losing side in a final already this year, as coach of the St Joseph’s HS team beaten in the Ulster D decider, but a win with Armagh would mean the wheel has come full circle since 2015.  It has been a long road back.


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