Armagh Captain relishing Final challenge

relishing final challenge
By Ciaran Woods of the Game Newspaper



Armagh’s Bronagh O’Donnell finds herself in a position which makes
her the envy of gaelic footballers, male and female, across the
country. While kicking a ball around in a back garden, or throughout
the tough winter training sessions knee deep in mud, everyone
dreams of being in the position she now finds herself. Because
every single person who has ever played football, who has ever
run through a game in their imagination, has at some point dreamed
of being the person to lead their county out at Croke Park in
an All-Ireland final.

The significance of the occasion is certainly not lost on O’Donnell,
but the level-headed defender epitomises the mood within the Armagh
camp; focused, enjoying the occasion, but without getting carried

“It’s the best position we can be in at this level, it’s the pinnacle
of Junior football and it doesn’t get any bigger than this. But
we’re trying to keep our feet on the ground, to keep it kind of
low key. We want to enjoy it, not only the match but everything
surrounding it as well, but without getting carried away with
the hype around it.”

A striking feature of the Armagh setup has been the professionalism
they have applied to everything they’ve done to date. There is
a sense of confidence oozing from the players, a firm belief that
they know what they want and more importantly they know how to
get it. Now, they find themselves where they want to be, just
sixty minutes away from what would be a truly remarkable achievement,
yet at the same time are very much aware that nothing has been
won yet.

“We’ve worked hard. We’ve tried to do everything the right way,
right from the start of the year, as professionally as we can
do. A lot of that comes from Hayley and Jacqui, as they have us
just so prepared for every possible eventuality that whatever
we come up against now we just seem to take it all in our stride.
The ball started rolling, and now it’s been our momentum that
has helped to carry us through what has been a long season, and
so far we’ve been able to show what we’re capable of and have
achieved our potential in each of our games to date.”

“Both Jacqui and Hayley have a wealth of experience as players.
They’ve been there and done all of this before. Hayley knows both
sides, having played on both losing and winning sides in the All-Ireland.
So she knows the signs to look out for, and has been keen to share
those experiences with us. We know that they’re there for us,
if we’ve any questions or need any advice on our game or on how
to handle things, and we’re lucky to have that sort of experience
that we can draw upon.”

The role of the captain in times such as these cannot be underestimated.
After all, O’Donnell is the one who her team mates look to for
guidance. They follow in her example. Therefore, an understanding
between the captain and the management is vital. It is she who
takes the managers views out onto the pitch with her, and in Armagh’s
case, they are very much singing from the one hymn sheet.

“I think we’re on the one wavelength in terms of what needs to
be done, how things need to be done, and of what we should be
saying. But I don’t think it’s just me, I think it’s all the girls
are on the same wavelength as the management and that’s been arguably
our greatest strength this year. Everyone is willing to do what
is asked of them, and whatever the managers ask us to do will
be done without question, because the girls have total trust in
them. They have the experience, and they hold the respect of all
the players here.”

The buzz surrounding the girls success has grown by the day. Coming
from the footballing stronghold of Crossmaglen, O’Donnell can
understand fully the enormity of what they have achieved as she
has seen her own clubs glory over the years. At a time like this
everyone wants to wish you well, to congratulate you, and to discuss
the game. The captain though is keeping her feet firmly on the

“Wherever you go, people are stopping you and saying to you about
the game and wishing you luck. They mean well, but as players
we’ve got to distance ourselves a bit from that. You don’t want
to be abrupt with people, but the managers have us well schooled
not to believe in your own hype because at the end of the day
we’ve won nothing yet. But it’s a great feeling, with everyone
knowing the game is on and the amount of people who have said
they’re travelling down to the game. So it’s about finding the
right balance between enjoying the bit of a buzz surrounding the
game, and at the same time keeping the feet firmly on the ground.”

Already, O’Donnell can recognise the great role that her sides
extended championship run has had in raising the profile of Ladies
football within the county. Gaelic games in Ulster is on the crest
of a wave, and in Armagh at least Ladies football is following
just as closely behind.

“People now are so much more aware of ladies football. They know
the game is on, they’re travelling to watch it, and most importantly
everyone is very positive and encouraging of it. There’ll definitely
be a lot of young girls travelling down, and hopefully seeing
Armagh playing at Croke Park in an All-Ireland final will be a
spur for them to push themselves forward in their own game, and
that they’ll see that this is a county with a bright future, and
hopefully this will be the first of many days out to Croke Park.”

To the young players in Armagh, the senior players are already
role models. They have reached the level and the stage that they
all aspire to be at in the future. One more win, one more big
push, and their status as heroes in the county will be complete.
A place in the history books beckons for one of the two competing
sides, and all of Ulster will be firmly in support of the Orchard
girls in their quest.

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