Tackling champions Cork in Saturday’s All-Ireland semi-final at Longford looks like a daunting assignment but laidback Lurgan girl Niamh Henderson seems remarkably relaxed ahead of this huge game.
The talented teenager is enjoying every minute of a special season for Armagh which has seen the Orchard outfit already lift two trophies and win all 13 matches so far.
“It’s been brilliant, not just our results but because as a team we’re so close and players and management make up a really tight group,” reflected the trainee teacher ahead of facing the most successful side in the sport’s history. “Securing promotion from Division Three of the National League at the third attempt took the pressure off and set us up for a successful Ulster Championship campaign.
“The packed crowds for the two curtain-raisers in the Athletic Grounds and Clones really made those occasions special for us as players but didn’t upset our focus on the task in hand.
“By contrast, there understandably wasn’t much crowd for our All-Ireland quarter-final against Laois down in Tullamore but again we did a very professional job and deservedly won well.”
A classy, composed player who typically produces assured displays and never seems bothered by the big occasion or reputation of the opposition, Henderson has the same comfortable manner in interviews.
Henderson has had positive influences close to home in Clann Eireann colleagues Mags McAlinden and Sinead McCleary.
“People say I’m laidback as a person so maybe that helps me stay reasonably relaxed around these big games but having such experienced campaigners in the team is very reassuring,” she said. “It was great getting the chance to work with such complete professionals and I picked up plenty of experience playing senior county finals as well as representing Armagh at underage.
“Mags is always pushing hard and Sinead’s probably one of my biggest role models, so committed even in training, and it’s great having them there to learn from.”
In the county team, Henderson has been enjoying playing midfield lately alongside iconic captain Caroline O’Hanlon.
“She is someone I really look up to and feel privileged to play with,” she said. “She seems to be getting better.”