By Kieran Lynch
WITH their All-Ireland Premier Junior Championship campaign starting this weekend, Armagh captain Michelle McGuigan is hoping that her side can go one step further than they did in each of the last two years.
In both 2021 and 2022 the Orchard County reached the final of the competition and took to the field at Croke Park. However, they suffered defeats on each occasion, losing against Wexford and Antrim.
New manager Sean Hughes has come in this year, and he has freshened up the panel by bringing in some younger players, but despite the upheaval, McGuigan believes that Armagh have the ability to return to Headquarters this year and give winning the championship another shot.
“We definitely can,” she said, when asked can they be in the mix again.
“We have had a bit of a change of team this year, with a few new girls coming in. But I see no reason why we shouldn’t be able to get back to Croke Park this year.
“We have got the talent to do so, and the younger girls coming through have kept things fresh. I know they’re keeping me going. Everything is going good and hopefully we’ll be back in Croke Park this year.”
Whilst those aforementioned All-Ireland defeats were disappointing for Armagh, they have had even more recent setbacks, which they will be hoping to get out of their system.
After a strong Division 3A campaign, they lost the league final against Carlow, before they were dumped out of the Ulster Championship by Cavan.
However, McGuigan is hoping that her team can learn lessons from those losses.
“Definitely it has been disappointing; we were really unlucky in both games,” she said.
“We have probably underperformed by our own standards, and we haven’t been able to get over the end line.
“But hopefully we can learn from those games and take that knowledge going into the championship.”
Armagh will be hoping to do just that when they travel to take on Mayo this weekend and get their championship campaign off to a fast start.
The Orchard County steamrolled Mayo 5-12 to 2-5 in the league, but McGuigan believes that they will need to be at their best to get the required result this weekend.
“We’ll take each game as it comes, but getting off to a fast start is the best option for any team,” she said.
“We want to be positive in every game that we play and getting a couple of points on the board right away is very important.
“The games come thick and fast, so getting a couple of wins can build both momentum and morale in a team.
All the girls need that bit of a lift every now and then, and when you’re winning it always make it easier pressure-wise going into the next game.
“To be fair, every game is a new game, and you’re only as good as your last game as they say. We obviously have to go down to Westport, which is a long trip, so that has to be taken into consideration as well.
“We’re definitely not taking Mayo lightly. We’ll give it our best on the day and hopefully we have enough to come out on the right side of the result.”