Orchard primed for top of the table clash

By Shaun Casey

A TOP of the table clash against old foes Meath is what awaits Armagh this weekend as they intend to increase their winning streak to four on the trot. The Royals are in the same position, however, as like the Orchard County, they’ve won their first three games.

The two teams have grown to know each other fairly well over the last few years. While they didn’t clash in 2023, they have met three times in previous years and Armagh have yet to earn a victory.

And to add another bit of spice to the fixture, Shane McCormack, the Armagh manager last season, has since joined the Leinster outfit and he will know the Orchard County players inside out.

“It’ll be one to look forward to for sure,” said Armagh skipper Clodagh McCambridge after their recent two-point win over Galway. “There’s been a lot of good competition there over the past few years and I think the last time we played them, we drew with them (2022).

“They’re obviously previous All-Ireland winners and they have a lot of pedigree in their team, so it’ll definitely be a step up. They’re in the same position as we are now with three wins from three, so it’ll be a good challenge for us and one we’re looking forward to.”

New Armagh manager Greg McGonigle, back in his second stint in charge of the Orchard ladies, named McCambridge as his captain for the year ahead and while the impassable full-back admits there’s pressure with the job, she insists she’s not on her own.

“It’s a big role to step into but we’re so lucky in our team to have so many leaders, we’re learning off each other,” said the Clann Eireann defender, who helped her club to a first-ever Ulster title in 2023.

“We have so many girls there that are able to drive us on so it’s definitely not just me acting in a leadership role. It’s a lot of pressure but we have lots of brilliant girls around us to support me, so they lead the way.”

McCambridge couldn’t have wished for a better start to her captaincy as Armagh have begun the season with a bang, earning three wins from three games in their first Division One campaign since 2017.

They’ve seen off Waterford and Galway, both on home turf, while an away win over Cork in round two really raised eyebrows. “It’s a dream start,” added McCambridge.

“Especially that second half (against Galway), there’s still lots that we can improve on. But there’s nothing more you can ask for than to have three wins from three games.

“It’s the start we wanted and the start we needed. Especially with the two home games, we made the most out of them.

And we were lucky to get the win away to Cork as well. Hopefully we’ve built up a bit of momentum now and we can push on.”

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