Merry relieved to finally get over the line

By Shaun Casey

RELIEF was the main emotion for Rachael Merry and her Armagh teammates when the final whistle blew in their Division Three National League decider with Laois last weekend as the Orchard County had finally gained promotion.

It’s been a target for this Armagh team over the last number of years and they’ve suffered some close calls in recent times too, losing two league finals inside three years.

Wexford were two points better off in 2021 while Carlow sneaked through by the minimum of margins last year so getting their hands on the title and earning promotion was a relief.

“It was great, we were all delighted,” said Merry, who was named as the Player of the Match having finished with 0-6. “It’s been a goal of ours over the last few years to get up to Division Two, so it was probably more relief than anything.

“I do feel like it was a long time coming. We’ve been pipped at the post in the last couple of finals, so it was just great to get over the line. Whenever that last goal went in, I just thought that this can’t be happening again.

“I think everyone just dug deep then and we managed to grind out the last couple of scores. I don’t think any of us were going to leave that pitch with a loss.

“The fact that we were able to turn it around and have that response after that was great, it just showed how much everyone really wanted to win the game.”

Not only did Merry top score for Sean Hughes’ side, but the responsibility to win the game fell to her in the final seconds. Laois bagged a late goal to go one up, but Armagh tied the game through Sinead Quinn.

There was time for one last score and Merry fired over the matching winning free. “I was just praying it went over realistically,” added the Granemore sharpshooter.

“It’s just another free at the end of the day, you can’t be sitting thinking that I have to score so we can win, it’s just another free. You can take as many frees as you want but, on the day, it is completely different.

“You can go and take frees in training and score every single one of them but then when it comes to the pressure ones, your heart starts racing. It’s completely different on the day but I just had to keep calm.”

Granemore won the All-Ireland Junior A Championship last season alongside joint-captain Ciarrai Devlin and Merry feels they have carried that momentum into this year.

“It’s always good whenever you’ve got a bit of success with your club then going back to Armagh, I wasn’t even sure if I was going to play county this year. But we have a good attitude to it now and you don’t want to stop winning either. Iit probably does carry through, especially because our club season was so long as well, we’re kind of still on that bit of a buzz.”

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