Sally Rafferty looks ahead as the Orchard County get ready for their final showdown..
This Saturday will see Armagh pitted against Westmeath in this year’s All Ireland Junior A final, the winners taking home the coveted Nancy Murray Cup.
Armagh Senior camogie team’s last National Win was in 2006 when they won the Inaugural Nancy Murray Cup title, named in honour of one of Antrim’s and Ulster’s finest camogie gaels.
Nancy Murray was President of the Camogie Association from 1973. She won three All-Ireland senior medals with Antrim and coached her county to All-Ireland success in 1956 and 1967.
Armagh go into this final having been defeated at this stage in the past two years and their inspirational captain Bernie Murray is taking nothing for granted in this, their third final in a row. The St Patrick’s College Banbridge teacher, is under no illusion of the task facing the Armagh team on Saturday.
“”I think the match on Saturday will be a tough, hard fought game between two good teams, which will go right down to the wire. This final will be the third All Ireland final this team and players have been in the last three years and we are capable of winning the All Ireland it but we are under no illusion that Westmeath will be trying to do the same thing. The girls know that just because we are in the final for the third year we have no god given right to win it so we know we need to play to our strengths, work as a team, fight for every ball and that Saturday is the time to show what we are made of.””
Strong talking indeed from the Cullyhanna ace that has shown her own strength and mettle on the field of play. Having played at International Level last year Murray is a well known name on the inter county scene and her darting runs through the opposition defence is now her trademark. She has the ability to take and make scores with equal measure.
The Armagh camp is a strong mix of youth and experience with a number of new players having joined the squad this season.
“”I think we have a lot of strengths and positives to look to going in to the match and I know the mood in the camp is confident that we are able to win this match. We have some new additions to the squad and the management team this year and this has helped raise our game. At training girls are pushing themselves hard as they know a place on the starting team is hard earned and if mistakes are made someone else is eager to come in a put in a good performance””.
Armagh manager Patsy Magee has brought in Derry’s Benny Brunton to the Armagh management set-up this season and the duo have brought some great performances out of their charges. Murray agrees that the preparation of the Orchard girls has been top notch:
“”We have prepared well coming into the match with good turn outs at training and a recent challenge match against Down has helped to give us some tough competitive match practice. We know quite a bit about Westmeath as we have played them during the year in the championship qualifying stages. Although we beat them that day it was a hard fought game and scores were hard to get. We know they have a lot of strong physical players particularly down the middle and in midfield that are capable of winning a lot of ball.
I think the game will be won by the team who displays the most hunger and determination to win and a big all round team performance will be needed from all players on the team. If we can win good ball in midfield and get frequent ball into our forward line then I know we are capable of getting the scores!
Armagh’s forward line have been particularly impressive this season with Ciara Donnelly and newcomer Michelle McGuigan particularly effective alongside their captain. However the Armagh defence, marshalled by the experience of Granemore’s Bronagh Mone in goals, Ann McGuigan (Middletown) at fullback and another newcomer Aoibheann McKenna (Derrynoose) have been a sound platform from which the team has moved and their midfield duo of Ballymacnab’s Laura Brunton and Derrymacash’s Niamh McGeown have been a powerful partnership.
If Armagh can play to their potential there is no doubt that Murray has every chance of lifting the Nancy Cup trophy come Saturday evening.