ARMAGH Ladies go into their second Dublin final in seven months on Saturday determined to add a Tesco HomeGrown National League title to the All Ireland Intermediate trophy won last October.
Unbeaten for over a year now, Armagh are going into the Division Three decider against Down at Parnell Park in Dublin (TG4, 12.15pm) on the back of a magnificent seven straight victories since drawing with the Mourne women in the first league game of this season.
Having won the Ulster and All Ireland Intermediate Championships last year, gaining promotion in the league is Armagh’s primary objective in 2013 and they will start slight favourites against their nearest neighbours.
Armagh’s only previous National League success came in 2005, when a team captained by Clann Eireann goalkeeper Denise Hagan beat Donegal by a point in the Division Two final, with current captain Caroline O’Hanlon named Player of the Match.
The other survivor from that team in this weekend’s starting line-up is the versatile Sinead McCleary, who back then was a promising schoolgirl lining out at centre half back but looks likely to be deployed at full forward eight years on.
Clann Eireann’s McCleary and former Craigavon Hospital doctor O’Hanlon are joint top scorers for Armagh this season and the pair’s proven pedigree could prove the difference between these sides.
Although McCleary has graduated into one of the side’s most senior figures, Armagh have a talented Lurgan schoolgirl in their ranks this time too in the form of her club colleague Niamh Henderson.
Having won Player of the Match in both the Ulster and All Ireland Intermediate finals last year, the third Clann star in Saturday’s team, full back Laura Brown, will be relishing the prospect of another big game.
Mags McAlinden, who hasn’t played since lifting the Mary Quinn Cup in Croke Park last October is still sidelined by a knee injury and St Peter’s prospect Ciara Lennon looks likely to start on the bench.