February 15th, 2024


The pre-Christmas announcement of Clann Eireann full back Clodagh McCambridge as ladies gaelic’s new Orchard county captain confirmed the end of Armagh Harps forward Kelly Mallon’s hugely successful four-year spell as skipper.

Although she previously led Madden camogs to a first county title triumph for more than three decades, Mallon had never captained any gaelic football team until she stood in for the injured Caoimhe Morgan for the 2018 All Ireland qualifier against Cork in Ballinasloe.

With a neat sense of symmetry, Cork were again the opposition for what proved to be the 34-year-old’s last match as official captain, Armagh’s first ever home quarter-final in the All Ireland Senior Championship last July, which resulted in a narrow defeat.

In between, Mallon led Armagh to an historic hat-trick of Ulster Senior Championship successes and to their first victory in Croke Park for more than a decade, which secured a return to the top flight of the National League after a six-season absence.

The pandemic meant the Orchard outfit’s formidable All Ireland campaign had ended, in an agonising defeat to holders Dublin, by the time they were crowned provincial champions for the first time in six years by beating Monaghan in Clones in mid-December 2020.

The following August at Omagh’s Healy Park, the Orchard crew retained their title with a narrow win in the final against a Donegal team who had inflicted a couple of bad beatings on them in previous seasons.

Inspirational skipper Mallon was the hero when Armagh made it three in a row the following May, nailing a long-range last-kick free to take the Clones showpiece to extra-time, during which she scored the winning goal against Donegal in the last half minute.

Mallon picked up the All Ireland Player of the Month award on the back of her heroics, went on to win a third consecutive Irish News Ulster All Star, land the ABC Sportswoman of the Year title and be crowned LGFA Player of the Year at last April’s Local Women Sport Awards.

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The next day, Mallon captained Armagh to victory over Laois in the NFL Division Two final at Croke Park, though the orangewomen subsequently relinquished their provincial crown with a disappointing decider defeat against Donegal at Owenbeg.

Widely praised for her pastoral leadership and exceptional commitment to the Orchard cause, Mallon has still found time during her reign as Armagh gaelic captain to extend her record haul of All Ireland senior road bowls titles to an astonishing 11.

Morgan’s cruciate rupture meant Mallon led Armagh at the end of the 2018 season and in the following spring’s National League before being appointed captain in her own right this time four years ago, though she has had her own injury frustrations.

ABC Council officer Mallon has left McCambridge with a hard act to follow as county captain but thankfully she will continue to line out in the orange jersey for a 15th season since being given her Orchard debut by Greg McGongle in his previous stint at the Armagh helm in 2009.


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