From Formation to an All-Ireland Final in 9 years – The Remarkable Rise of Armagh club Shane O’Neill’s

PETER Lynch remembers that it was after an U12 defeat in 2009 when Brendan McGuire uttered the prophetic words – ‘keep working hard and stick at it, and one day you can go on to an All-Ireland final.’

Seven years later, and McGuire’s prediction has come to pass, as Armagh’s Shane O’Neill’s prepare for next Sunday’s All-Ireland ladies intermediate club football decider against Galway outfit Annaghdown.

McGuire has been a constant with the club since its formation in late 2007.  

So too has Lynch, a key member of the management team preparing the club for Sunday’s date with destiny at Parnell Park.

Lynch says: “I was there from the start, myself, Brendan McGuire, Clare Carroll, Freda Mackin.

“I said I’d take it in the first year to get it going and then somebody else would take over but I’m still there!”

Many members of the Shane O’Neills squad were involved in a Gaelic 4 Girls programme as part of the club’s start-up.

And Lynch remembers: “At the end of 2007, the club decided we had the numbers and interest and we first entered teams at U12 and U14 in 2008.

“We trained through the winter of 2007 and into 2008, and won the U12 League and championship in our first year. We’ve built since that, winning 27 trophies at various age levels along the way.

“I would have seen some of our girls coming into the club at nine or ten years old, and I’ve watched them grow and develop as players and into fine, young people. They’re a very tight-knit group, we talk about an extended family, really. That’s the feeling that’s there.

“And I do remember Brendan telling them that if they keep working hard and stick at it, then one day they can go to an All-Ireland final.”

From the U12 crop of 2009 that McGuire addressed and inspired, Lynch estimates that at least ten have made the progression to the club’s current flagship squad.

Next year, they will compete in the club championship as a senior team but they’ve already been cutting their teeth in the county’s senior League competition.

Mixing it alongside clubs like Clann Eireann, Carrickcruppen, Armagh Harps and Grange, Shane O’Neills have held their own.

In their second season in Division 1, Shane O’Neills finished joint third alongside Carrickcruppen and Lynch says: “It takes a wee while to evolve into a senior championship team but definitely we’ll be competing and holding our own with the best of them.”

Before that, there’s potential national silverware to be claimed. Three years ago, Shane O’Neills were left devastated by an All-Ireland junior quarter-final defeat against Dunedin Connolly’s but they’ve come a long way since then.

Caoibhe Sloan, another member of the club’s management team, says: “We can’t actually believe it. We had training the other night and we always do a bit of football tennis or a fun game to get the craic going.

“We didn’t change that, we still had our fun game, played rounders and the rest.

“It’s unbelievable that we’re in a final and here’s what we were doing but we wouldn’t change it either. When the ball’s thrown in, we’ll work hard and knuckle down.”


By Jackie Cahill

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