June 6th, 2024


Richard Bullick

Armagh’s first ever ladies National League final appearance this spring culminated in Clodagh McCambridge lifting the trophy as the victorious captain, and the historic occasion was also a milestone match for the Orchard’s magnificent full back.

Clodagh made her 100th Armagh start on an April afternoon when younger sister Meabh became the third sibling to wear the county’s orange jersey at adult level, with brother Barry having featured for the men’s team in recent seasons.

Croke Park is a wonderfully prestigious stage to bring up personal landmarks, though the fact it was Clodagh’s 100th start went under the radar at the time, as had the achievement of reaching her century of Armagh appearances two games earlier.

Your correspondent will readily hold his hands up in taking some blame for that oversight, but it’s also fair to say that the McCambridge milestone seems to have come up quickly and taken people by surprise, a bit like the Orchard defender does with opposition forwards.

Although exceptionally capable on and off the field, McCambridge is quite understated by nature but has been a real rock in the Orchard defence for much of the past decade with her mix of deceptive pace, physical strength and ability to read the game.

First brought into the county panel by James Daly just after finishing school in the summer of 2015, McCambridge made her debut off the bench in the All Ireland qualifier against Westmeath and another cameo appearance in the quarter-final victory over Donegal.

With the great Caoimhe Morgan absent at the start of the following season pending the birth of her second child, new manager Ronan Clarke threw the teenager in at full back for the start of the National League as Armagh returned to the top flight following a lengthy absence.

It was an inspired decision by the former Orchard hero as, remarkably, McCambridge has started 101 of the 102 Armagh matches since, with the sole exception being when she missed the 2018 All Ireland quarter-final due to a holiday.

Unfortunately for McCambridge, there were no All Stars awarded for the pandemic-disrupted 2020 season when Armagh reached the All Ireland semis, but she received an equivalent accolade by being named in the one-off Team of the Senior Championship instead.

A three-time Irish News Ulster All Star, McCambridge made the national All Stars shortlist last year when she was also named in the ceremonial NFL Team of Division Two, followed by inclusion in this season’s Team of Division One.

Armagh’s Player of the Year for 2020, McCambridge picked up the Gaelic Life Ulster Club Player of the Year for last season after starring as Clann Eireann became the first female team from the Orchard county to be crowned provincial club champions.

The former Assumption Grammar Ballynahinch Head Girl was appointed as the new county captain by incoming manager Greg McGonigle at the start of the year and she has already lifted two trophies while leading the team to eight victories in nine matches to date.

Although Armagh have no fewer than THREE vice-captains this season, there has been no need for anyone to deputise as McCambridge has been on the field for every minute so far, just as she was for all 14 fixtures last year!

An actuary by profession, Queen’s graduate McCambridge has started the last seven Ulster finals for Armagh, accruing four provincial championship medals along the way, and she has been part of half a dozen Orchard county title triumphs with Clann Eireann.

Like younger sister Meabh, Clodagh is a former Northern Ireland Under 21 netballer and previously lined out for Premier League club Kingsway in a sport their mum Helen played at senior international level.

Despite a degree of natural reserve, McCambridge has delivered very impressive, unscripted speeches as the winning captain after this season’s NFL and Ulster finals, and all Orchard followers will hope she has microphone in hand again in Croke Park on August 4!

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