County manager James Daly is backing his Clann Eireann contingent to play leading roles this Saturday as Armagh bid for a place in the ladies’ All-Ireland final.
Armagh must beat champions Cork in Longford for the first time ever to reach the Croke Park showpiece and the Orchard boss believes the influential trio of Lurgan girls can make a crucial contribution.
Former captain Mags McAlinden and fellow stalwart Sinead McCleary are among five survivors from the 2006 All-Ireland final between these counties, while talented teenager Niamh Henderson is a rising star.
This is only Armagh’s second-ever semi-final, in contrast to Cork’s record of winning eight All-Ireland titles in nine years - but both teams are current provincial champions.
The three local ladies encapsulate the compelling mix of youth and experience which has helped Armagh win all 13 matches since almost upsetting Cork in a qualifier last August.
“Mags missed our whole National League campaign last year through injury but this season she’s really reborn and playing out of her skin, including getting a couple of goals in the quarter-final,” said Daly. “Sinead McCleary is an incredibly important player for us, a great all-rounder who could do a first-class job in so many positions.
“She’s experienced, competitive, versatile and in superb condition and perhaps the most under-rated ladies’ footballer in Ireland.
“Niamh Henderson is extremely talented and phenomenal for us this season, including in big games.
“Her superb performance in the second half against Monaghan in a packed Clones was unquestionably a significant factor in Armagh going on to win that match,”