April 27th, 2023


Richard Bullick

Two of Armagh gaelic’s biggest beasts will be rivals for the coveted title of Sportswoman of the Year at this Thursday’s Armagh Banbridge Craigavon Sports Awards in Portadown’s Seagoe Hotel.

Orchard skipper Kelly Mallon and her county team-mate Niamh Marley are among seven individuals shortlisted for the top prize on the back of impressing in their second sport in 2022 in addition to their heroics in gaelic football.

Last year’s ABC Sportswoman of the Year Mallon won her record-extending 10th All Ireland senior road bowls title while recent rugby convert Niamh Marley received an Ulster call-up in her new sport of rugby after excelling at club level for Dungannon.

The Hamiltonsbawn sportswoman scored 18 tries in her first 10 rugby games for the Ulster Premiership side, though her interpro performances in January and subsequent invitation for a trial with the professional Irish sevens squad fell outside the awards window.

Both Marley and Mallon made a crucial contribution to Armagh’s thrilling victory in last season’s Ulster Senior Championship showpiece, the former winning the turnover which led to the latter’s winning goal against Donegal in the last half minute of extra-time in Clones.

Mallon had earlier showed nerves of steel in landing a pressure free from long-range to level the scores with the last-kick of injury-time and she later lifted the trophy for the third year running, the first time Armagh have achieved a hat-trick of Ulster title triumphs.

County captain Mallon (33) and St Ronan’s College PE teacher Marley (30) were among seven Armagh players who subsequently won Irish News Ulster All Stars on the back of being crowned provincial champions.

Along with Mallon and Marley, the other eye-catching candidate for Sportswoman of the Year this Thursday is Portadown bowler Chloe Wilson, who competed for Team NI at last summer’s Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.