Armagh manager James Daly has branded Sinead McCleary the ‘most under-rated player in Ireland’ after the Lurgan woman was named in the Tesco Team of the National League.
The versatile Clann Eireann stalwart was among three Armagh players honoured at a ceremony at Croke Park alongside double All Star Caroline O’Hanlon and young sensation Fionnuala McKenna.
But while the legendary O’Hanlon rightly receives regular plaudits and teenager McKenna is understandably flavour of the moment following her meteoric rise, Daly believes McCleary’s excellence isn’t always acknowledged.
Her inclusion in the Team of the League at No 14 was remarkable considering she hadn’t played full forward until the fourth match of the campaign and then missed the next three games due to an overseas placement.
In spite of having been away, the 25-year-old, an Orchard regular for the past eight years, finished the campaign as Armagh’s top scorer with 3-28, before reverting to the half back line in the Ulster team which retained their interpro title. “I think Sinead is the most under-rated player in Ireland – a phenomenal player and athlete who would win one of these awards in any of the 14 outfield positions.
“She’s an accomplished footballer who will willingly concentrate on defensive duties or serve as the main attacking threat depending upon where the team’s need is greatest.
“Managers dream about having players like Sinead who can do so many different jobs, though few would have her mix of experience, natural ability and work ethic. She’s a leader and a key player for Armagh.” In addition to her fine performances with Armagh and Ulster so far, McCleary captained Queen’s University to an historic success in March when they won the student All Ireland, the O’Connor Cup.
She will have a key role in Sunday’s Ulster Senior Championship semi-final against Tyrone when her clubmate Mags McAlinden will be back to captain Armagh for the first time this year following injury.