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Armagh lay finals bogey in dramatic decider

Tue 16th Apr

Daragh Ó Conchúir


By Daragh Ó Conchúir
Rachael Merry lifted the lid on the mentality that enabled her to remain composed enough to strike a winning point from a free in the sixth minute of injury time of a dramatic Very Camogie League Division 3A final at Abbotstown.

The 0-14 to 2-7 verdict over a gallant Laois ended Armagh’s dreadful recent record in finals, which includes defeat in the last two League deciders as well as the All-Ireland premier junior finals of 2021 and 2022.

They would have gone through the full gamut of emotions in a sensational closing quarter, as they led by four points with 58 minutes gone and then fell behind thanks to a 65th minute goal by Ava Coss.

But Merry set up Sinéad Quinn for an equalising point from the very next play and then the Granemore sharpshooter stood up to the plate to split the posts from 40m out after a foul on Hannah Duffy.

“It’s unreal,” said Merry. “I feel like it’s been a long time coming. We keep getting to finals and today we finally got over the line.

“We knew they were gonna come out strong. And after the League (phase) against them (when Laois won), we knew they were unreal team, we had to give it our all and get a good start from them.

“I don’t think anybody wanted to leave here without that cup. We’ve been pipped on the line time after time and I don’t think anyone was going to lie down. We were going to do whatever it takes to get over the line.

“At the end of the day, you just have to think it’s another free. If you start thinking, ‘If I score this, we’re gonna win,’ then it’ll go haywire. It’s just another free at the end of the day.”

Victorious manager, Seán Hughes hailed the character of his players.

“The wind played a bit of a factor and we decided to go agin’ it,” Hughes explained. “So we had to stay in touch. The girls showed great character during the game. Possibly in the first half, we thought we should have had a few more scores but the wind held up a few balls. We were quite happy going in at half-time with that one-point gap.

“Although there’s a lot of new players on the panel, there’s a lot of experience on the squad. The girls had been disappointed a number of times so we just said at half-time, more of the same. They drove it on themselves.

“When the free was given, we knew Rachael was gonna hit it. She’s a renowned freetaker so we’d every confidence in her that she was gonna score. If it hadn’t went over, it wasn’t the end of the world, we were still in the game but we had every confidence in her.

“It’s a great win for the girls. They’ve had lots of setbacks. Today was about them and getting over the line.”

Playing at a higher level has been the target for a number of seasons and Merry promises that Armagh are not finished yet.

“This is just a stepping stone for us,” the match winner stated. “I think the last time we won this League was 2016. We just needed to get up into Division 2(A). If you’re playing in higher leagues, that will push you on. We wanted to get out of Division 3 and get out of junior and that’s our aim for this year.”

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