Armagh proving their mettle says Donnelly

By Niall Gartland

ARMAGH joint-captain Leanne Donnelly says they were keen to rectify the disappointments of 2023 and now they’re hoping to pick up their second piece of silverware in the space of a month when they take on Antrim Seconds in this weekend’s Ulster Intermediate Championship final.

The Orchard County came out second best in a series of important clashes last season, including the Division 3A final, Ulster semi-final against Cavan and All-Ireland semi-final against Clare.

They’ve already made amends for the first two defeats – winning the Division 3A title just last month and overcoming the Breffni County in their Ulster Intermediate Championship semi-final a fortnight ago.

So all’s rosy in the Orchard garden and Donnelly says that they’ve been fiercely determined to make sure that they leave nothing to chance in the big games this year.

Donnelly said: “We were there or thereabouts last season but ultimately we were narrowly beaten in our three biggest matches and that’s something we knew we had to work on.

“Thankfully it’s been a case of so-far, so-good, we’ve stood up to the mark in the last few matches and got the results. We’ve been working extremely hard and thankfully we got our first title under our belts with the league so hopefully it’ll be a similar story this weekend.”

Armagh are also stronger on the personnel front than they were at the outset of their campaign with the return of Shelly McGuigan and Eimear Hayes in defence and Leanne’s sister Ciara (Geoghegan) and Jenny Curry in attack adding a mammoth amount of experience to the team.

“Those girls bring so much to the table in terms of their quality and leadership and they’re really pushing the rest of us on at training. It’s definitely great to have those girls back heading in the Ulster Championship and then leading into the All-Ireland campaign at the end of May.”

Two years ago Armagh got the better of Antrim’s reserve team in the Ulster final, but the young Saffrons came back to bite them in the All-Ireland final. Armagh are the in-form team at this level but Donnelly is wary enough about this weekend’s game.

“It can be hard to know what team Antrim will put out, sometimes girls come in go between their First and Seconds teams.

“It’ll be an interesting game but it’s one we’re really looking forward to. We’ve history with Antrim and we won’t be going in thinking it’ll be a walkover because it definitely won’t be.”

That said it’s definitely a productive period for Armagh, evidenced by their success on the club front as well with Granemore landing All-Ireland Junior honours last term and Crossmaglen making it to the All-Ireland Junior ‘B’ final.

Donnelly, who plays her club camogie with Tyrone side Eglish, said: “You have to credit the amount of work that the county board is doing. Armagh Camogie Matters (podcast) has given great coverage to the club game and Granemore showed what Armagh camogie is capable of, and hopefully we can back that up come summer time.”

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