Ladies Football League Preview

Last week, Armagh’s new managers Ronan Murphy and Tommy Stevenson announced their Captain and Vice-Captain for the upcoming year and Armagh Harps player Kelly Mallon was handed the Captain’s armband while Sarah Marley will be her understudy.

For a good few years now Kelly has been one of the standout players in the Armagh Ladies team and often leads from the front.

Her second half goal against Cork last year, to put her side seven ahead, was just one of the many examples where she inspired those around her.

Mallon does have some experience of leading her team out on to the field as she was handed the Captains role during the League and the start of the Championship last season,

“Obviously it’s a massive achievement and a massive honour for me. Last year I was Vice-Captain and I was just standing in for Caoimhe at the start of the league because she had torn her cruciate”.

“Even that in itself was a massive achievement, for me to take the team out on the first league game as Captain, even the first Championship game I was Captain in that match as well”.

“With new management coming in, you just never really know what way they’re going to take you, so it’s never guaranteed that you’re going to get that role”.

“Obviously I’m delighted with it and really eager to get going and really positive at the moment, everything’s going really well”.

Armagh announced their new management team back in October, with Ronan Murphy and Tommy Stevenson now at the helm.

Both men will want to build on the progress Armagh made last season and the new Orchard Captain is enjoying things so far, “We’ve been out a good wee while now, everything’s going really well”.

“They seem to be two really positive people, they’re very approachable and every time we go to training it’s something different, and it’s always with a football”.

“The girls are loving that element of it, it’s really good banter as well, but obviously it’s very, very tough at the same time”.

“We had four challenge games from the start of Christmas until now, they were really good games to use the new players. We’ve a few new players that have stepped up on to the panel, some really, really exciting players. That was an opportunity for them to showcase their talent and give us something to think about”.

“We’re always pushing, nothing is guaranteed for positions, this year a wee bit more so than last year, we’ve a lot more competition in the forward line which is great. Everyone is always pushing and it’s always good to see those girls making the step up into the senior panel”.

Mallon has been a mainstay of the Armagh forward line for a number of years now and has been aided by some of the most talented players in the country. The Mackin sisters Aimee and Blaithin along with the likes of Aoife McCoy and Caroline O’Hanlon at times form a deadly forward division.

Mallon usually controls the game from the centre half forward position and enjoys playing with such talented players, “Its brilliant; when you’re on the ball you always have an option”.

“It’s very easy to find Aimee or Blaithin, sometimes Caroline actually played in full-forward last year. They’re really easy targets to find and that is a massive bonus as a centre half forward”.

“I suppose when you’ve no option inside, it turns into a running game, but playing alongside the likes of Aoife McCoy as well, she’s a wee rocket on the ball and when she’s running off your shoulder the first thing you do is give it to her. I think she’s one of the best ball carriers on our team and she has so much pace behind her”.

“It’s really good to have those players as targets, I know Aimee, she’ll be out for most of the season with her ACL injury, but hopefully towards the middle of the Championship she’ll be back and she’ll be an option.

“We have a couple of new forwards that have come in and they’re very easy targets as well, very pacey and any time there’s a turnover they’ll work hard to get the ball back again, which is something that you don’t often see in forwards but it’s good to see in them young girls and they’re so eager”.

The league opens this weekend with an away clash against Clare while Armagh will also be on the road against Kerry, Wexford and Cavan while hosting Tyrone, Meath and Monaghan”.

“A difficult league campaign is guaranteed and Mallon insists her side will just take it game by game as they look to improve on a positive 2019.

“We haven’t really done any goal setting or anything at the moment but for myself and the older girls, I suppose the Division Two is a very competitive league and we are at the other side of the county for three of the games (Clare, Kerry and Wexford) so I think we’re just going to take it one game at a time for the league”.

“The structure has changed, so the top two teams go into a final instead of the top four going into a semi final then a final. The league, for me anyway, is one game at a time and then we want to push on and try to make the top two spot and then see what happens from there”.

“In terms of the Ulster Championship, the structure of that has changed again. I’m not a massive fan of the structure, I don’t really understand why they’ve went with a round robin in the Ulster Championship instead of knockout but I suppose they’re trying to bring Down in and get them games so I can see their perspective as well”.

“Obviously we want to go one further than we did last year, it was a disappointing game against Donegal last year in the Ulster Final. It was a terrible performance from us, in the first half we conceded far too many goals and it was an uphill battle after that”.

“Obviously our group is Cavan and Monaghan, it’ll be hard enough to get out of that but hopefully we can get through that and then we really want to push on and go one step further than we did last year”.