Armagh’s All Ireland Intermediate winning goalkeeper Catherine McAlinden has made a welcome return to the county panel for the new season.
The Clann Eireann net-minder, daughter of high profile former Armagh men’s keeper Brian McAlinden, had taken last year out to concentrate on her accountancy exams but was back between the posts for the recent challenge game against Meath in Killeavy.
In McAlinden’s absence, teenage keeper Katie Daly from Dromintee had stepped up to take possession of the No 1 jersey and undoubtedly developed presence as last season progressed.
Armagh gave away too many goals during last spring’s National League campaign but an increasingly confident Daly delivered a superb performance in keeping a clean sheet in last August’s All Ireland qualifier against champions Cork.
Daly played in the 2012 All Ireland Intermediate semi-final as Catherine McAlinden was injured but the more experienced player returned for the decider and actually saved a penalty in Croke Park among several key stops.
The Lurgan girl stepped back in for last season’s National League semi-final when Daly, daughter of Armagh manager James, was unavailable due to a family bereavement and now the pair will provide fierce competition for the No 1 jersey.
Armagh are fortunate to have two such accomplished keepers prepared to fight for the starting spot and another big bonus for the squad is the fact Catherine’s older sister, Mags McAlinden, is fit for the start of the new campaign.
The All Ireland Intermediate winning captain missed last season’s National League campaign due to a persisting knee problem and her relatively subdued display against Cork triggered fears she may have to call time on her inter-county career.
But the determined McAlinden is back for another year and showed her worth by netting twice when brought off the bench for the second half of Armagh’s impressive victory over Meath by 4-10 to 1-4 in their opening pre-season friendly.
Title favourites Armagh get their campaign underway with a home match against Longford in Killeavy this Sunday (2pm).