June 6th, 2024



Richard Bullick

Captain Clodagh McCambridge was absent due to a clashing wedding but Friday’s National League Awards night in Croke Park unquestionably underscored the sense that Armagh are no longer ladies gaelic football’s bridesmaids.

On the back of their historic title triumph last month, there were a magnificent seven Orchard representatives included in the ceremonial Team of Division One line-up and everyone except McCambridge was present at the event.

The Orchard contingent included Caroline O’Hanlon, back in the top flight No 9 jersey which had been bestowed upon her in the inaugural Team of the League way back in 2009 and a last-minute arrival on the evening.

Her attendance less than 24 hours before playing a British SuperLeague netball match for Leeds Rhinos away to London Pulse suggested she appreciates this latest award, while it was an occasion to savour for former Armagh skipper Kelly Mallon.

Being named in a Team of the League for the first time in her 16-season Orchard career was overdue, deserved recognition for the Harps forward, who hit five points in Croke Park as Armagh overcame Kerry in their first ever NFL final appearance.

Crossmaglen’s Lauren McConville, who won Player of the Match in the showpiece, was an obvious inclusion in the Team of Division One as was ace markswoman Aimee Mackin, Armagh’s top scorer on the big day.

The orangewomen’s win was a great team effort but the other two Armagh players honoured at the NFL awards were Dromintee dynamo Aoife McCoy in the half forward division and Ballyhegan livewire Grace Ferguson at corner back.

Saturday night brought heartbreaking defeat for O’Hanlon as Leeds Rhinos lost 49-48 to London Pulse at Crystal Palace Arena, where the visitors recovered brilliantly from a slow start to lead 29-25 at half-time but ended up being undone by inferior shooting percentages.

Emma Magee, who picked up a significant injury in the away win against Strathclyde Sirens, was missed on an evening when the two goal attacks used in her absence by Liana Leota in netted just 11 of their 20 shots in contrast to 22 of 24 for third-placed Pulse.

Her sister Michelle Magee played the full match at wing defence but their Northern Ireland captain O’Hanlon was withdrawn with Rhinos leading 42-40 in the last quarter and they ended up falling 49-45 behind before scoring three in a row and pressing for an equaliser.

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