June 6th, 2024


Richard Bullick

Seven of the Orchard heroes who helped Armagh make history by winning their first ever ladies National League title this spring have been rewarded with a place in the Team of Division One.

The Orchard contingent includes NFL final Player of the Match Lauren McConville, victorious captain Clodagh McCambridge and the two forwards who scored heavily in Armagh’s showpiece win against Kerry, Aimee Mackin and former skipper Kelly Mallon.

Armagh great Caroline O’Hanlon is included in the ceremonial line-up on the back of her impressive performances in midfield, stalwart Aoife McCoy gets the nod at centre half forward while Ballyhegan’s Grace Ferguson has been named at right corner back.

Greg McGonigle’s side booked their place in the NFL final for the first time ever with six consecutive victories on their return to the top flight after a six-season absence and came from behind to dethrone title holders Kerry in Croke Park the first Sunday in April.

The Kingdom have three representatives in the Team of Division One with two each from Mayo and former Armagh manager Shane McCormack’s Meath, while All Ireland champions Dublin’s sole representative is left corner back Leah Caffrey.

The Dubs beat a very experimental Armagh line-up 7-10 to 1-4 in the last regular league game but missed out on a place in the decider at headquarters thanks to Kerry’s victory over Galway the following day.

Along with Anna Carr, Cait Towe and Niamh Coleman, McCambridge, McConville, Mackin, McCoy and Ferguson were among eight Armagh players named in last season’s Team of Division Two after the Orchard clinched promotion by beating Laois in the final.

Carr, Coleman and Towe wouldn’t have been too far away this time either along with the increasingly established Emily Druse and her fellow 20-year-old Roisin Mulligan, undoubtedly the Orchard’s find of this season.

Mallon is in her 16th inter-county season so it is somewhat surprising that this is the first time the former Orchard captain has been included in any Team of the League but it is deserved recognition for a player who scored five points in the final against Kerry.

Mayo goalkeeper Laura Brennan gets the nod over Carr in nets, Caffrey joins McCambridge and Ferguson in the full back line while two of the Kerry representatives, Aishling O’Connell and Niamh Carmody, are the only survivors from the 2023 Team of Division One.

O’Connell and Meath’s Niamh Gallogly are either side of McConville in the half back line, O’Hanlon is partnered in midfield by Galvin, Carmody and Meath’s Emma Duggan flank McCoy in the half forward division and Mayo’s Lisa Cafferky has got the No 15 jersey.

Title winners Kildare lead the way with half a dozen players in the Team of Division Two including captain Grace Clifford and runners-up Tyrone’s five representatives are skipper Aoibhinn McHugh, Jayne Lyons, Meabh Corrigan, Emma-Jane Gervin and Maria Canavan.

Relegated last season, Donegal didn’t bounce back despite there being two promotion places on offer but Niamh McLaughlin, Susanne White and young defender Abigail Temple-Osokuh have been recognised along with Tipperary goalkeeper Lauren Fitzpatrick.

The breakdown is similar for the Team of Division Three where the six representatives of champions Clare include captain Caoimhe Harvey, Player of the Match in the decider victory over Roscommon, who have five players named including ex-AFLW star Ailish Considine.

Captain Meghan Doherty and fellow defender Orla Boyle fly the flag for third-placed Down while Armagh’s neighbours Louth are represented by Kate Flood in a line-up completed by an Offaly player.

First-time Division Four title winners Carlow lead the way in the basement section’s selection with six representatives, among them captain Ruth Bermingham and star forward Cliodhna Ni She, Player of the Match in the victory over Limerick in the final.

Roisin Ambrose heads a trio from Limerick, a tally matched by Leitrim, while Sarah McCarville and Eimear Smyth are included despite Fermanagh’s failure to reach the final and Wicklow is the 19th county represented in this year’s Teams of the League.

Including Mallon, Armagh have now had a total of 21 different individuals included in these selections – currently decided upon by the LGFA’s All Stars committee – during the past decade and a half since the concept’s inception.

This is Aimee Mackin’s seventh time to be honoured and a fourth for McConville.  The 2024 Teams of the Lidl National League League will be presented at a ceremony at Croke Park this Friday night.

TEAM OF DIVISION ONE: Laura Brennan (Mayo); Grace Ferguson (Armagh), Clodagh McCambridge (Armagh), Leah Caffrey (Dublin); Niamh Gallogly (Meath), Lauren McConville (Armagh), Aishling O’Connell (Kerry); Anna Galvin (Kerry), Caroline O’Hanlon (Armagh); Niamh Carmody (Kerry), Aoife McCoy (Armagh), Emma Duggan (Meath); Aimee Mackin (Armagh), Kelly Mallon (Armagh), Lisa Cafferky (Mayo).