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Ladies Ulster Championship First Round

Ladies Ulster Championship First Round

Armagh v Down

The Ulster Championship begins this weekend with Armagh and Down renewing old rivalries in Pairc Esler on Saturday.The teams had vastly differing league campaigns with Armagh being denied promotion to Division 1 after suffering defeat to Kildare after a replay in the Division 2 League final while Down finished the league without a win. Despite that when the sides met during the league Down ran Armagh very close and it was goals from Shauna O’Hagan and Mags McAlinden that separated the sides with the game finishing 2-10 to 1-09 in favour of the Orchard team.

As with all derbies previous form can be disregarded completely for this tie. Armagh player Caoimhe Marley summed that up when she said “Down are not to be taken lightly and it will take Armagh to be at their best to beat them.” Both sides are generously sprinkled with former underage stars. Down have players who have won All Ireland medals at underage while players such as Aoife Lennon and Kelly Mallon in particular have made a huge impact for Armagh this year, boosting competition for places and forcing each player to improve their own game to ensure their position in the team.

This has led to Armagh being less reliant on just one or two players to get scores with players from defence and midfield contributing to their forwards scoring exploits throughout the league campaign. As in previous years the Armagh defence is watertight. Emma Guy and Catherine McAlinden have both been given their chance to stake a claim for the goalkeeping jersey and both have acquitted themselves admirably. Caoimhe Morgan and Dervla Toal have been lauded as two of the best defenders in the game at national level. Sinead McCoy is developing into a top class defender and has proven she can take on the best in the country. Sinead McCleary and Meabh Moriarty bring a wealth of experience to the Armagh team and lead by example in every match. At midfield Armagh experimented with different partnerships during the league and are very adept at winning their own ball. Armagh have improed vastly in their forward line this year with more players taking responsibility for getting scores. Sharon Reel gets through a Trojan work every game while Laura Brown, Shauna O’Hagan and Mags McAlinden complement each other very well.

In contrast to other years, Armagh are blessed with great talent in their whole panel with players able to come in to the game and make a very valid contribution. This was seen during the league with the team being tweaked on numerous occasions but continuing their winning momentum with the exception of the final against Kildare. The experience that players who previously would have been regarded as fringe players will make this team all the more stronger as they begin their assault on the Ulster Championship.

Although the defeat to Kildare was very disappointing Armagh have prepared well for this game and will be determined to get back on the winning trail. The match will take place in Pairc Esler Newry at 5.00 on Saturday 5th June. The Ulster championship which is based on a round robin fixtures will continue with Armagh playing Monaghan as a curtain raiser to the Monaghan and Fermanagh men game in Breffni Park on 12th June with the round robin ended with the derby against Tyrone on 26th June with a venue to be confirmed.

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