McCoy reflects on historic Orchard County league triumph

By Niall Gartland

WINNING a first-ever Division One title was a historic moment for Armagh ladies and one that tees them up nicely for their looming championship campaign, according to Aoife McCoy.

The Armagh half-forward was delighted with how things panned out against Kerry in Croke Park last Sunday as they clinched a 2-12 to 2-9 victory in front of their passionate band of Orchard supporters.

The natural next step is to return to Croke Park later in the year when the All-Ireland is handed out, but for now they can savour a very special victory at the home of Gaelic games.

McCoy said: “It was a very special day for our group and good to make history as well. We’ve come out on the wrong side of a couple of battles against Kerry in recent years, they’re a very good team with a lot of squad depth, they’re very physical as well.

“We’re in a position now where we have a bit of momentum, we won six out of seven league games and we had a similar streak in Division Two last year. It always sets you up well heading into the championship, confidence is high and people are naturally happy whenever things are going well.”

Armagh have been knocking on the door in recent years and the burning question is whether they can break through the glass ceiling and win an All-Ireland SFC Ladies title for the first time in the county’s history.

They’ve made the All-Ireland final once before, back in 2006, on that occasion losing by a single point in a heart-breaking defeat to Cork. If they keep up their current form, they have every chance – and the Dromintee ace says their new manager Greg McGonigle is making an extremely positive impact.

“Whenever a new management comes in, it’s almost like everyone’s back at square one in terms of trying to get your spot on the team again.

“One thing Greg did at the start of the year was grow the size of the panel, we have about 38 players and it’s really made things very competitive at training. We’re able to have in-house games which we couldn’t always do in the past and it really drives the thing on.”

For a number of years, Armagh battled hard just to get out of Division Two and they achieved that goal last season with victory over Laois. McCoy hopes that the experience of lining out against top teams week-after-week in the top flight should also stand to them come championship.

“We did say in years past that playing in Division Two hasn’t really helped us. We weren’t really getting the chance to play the best teams before going into the group stages of the All-Ireland. Now we’ve obviously done that and mixed with them. It gives us belief more than anything, though belief alone isn’t enough, we’ll need to build on our current performances.”

Armagh now have a five-week break before taking on Donegal in the Ulster Senior Championship final which precedes their All-Ireland campaign. McCoy believes they can use the somewhat lengthy gap to their advantage.

“I thought it might’ve come around a bit quicker, but at least we’re straight into the group stages after Ulster.

“The All-Ireland gets wrapped up in August, so whatever happens you’re still finished up pretty early.

“It’s good to be honest to have a bit of a break to let the girls reset.

“We’ve worked very hard since November, we’ll take this week off and get a bit of rest, then everyone will be recharged and ready to go again.”

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