Aimee Mackin stars as Armagh beat Kerry to win Division One title

The Allstar forward produced a 1-4 scoring burst in the second half to put the game beyond the Kingdom

rmagh captain Clodagh McCambridge lifts the cup after the Lidl LGFA National League Division 1 final match between Armagh and Kerry at Croke Park in Dublin. Picture: Stephen Marken/Sportsfile
rmagh captain Clodagh McCambridge lifts the cup after the Lidl LGFA National League Division 1 final match between Armagh and Kerry at Croke Park in Dublin. Picture: Stephen Marken/Sportsfile (Stephen Marken / SPORTSFILE)

ARMAGH were crowned Division One champions for the first time after putting in a superb second-half display to defeat defending champions Kerry in Croke Park yesterday.

The Ulster side have now followed in both Kerry and Meath’s footsteps, winning the top tier league title in their promotion year after clinching the Division Two title the previous year.

Twelve months ago, they played Laois in the Division Two curtain-raiser at headquarters and looked on as Kerry, who had beaten them in the 2022 Division Two final, beat Galway to be crowned champions.

Yesterday, they took centre stage in the main event in their first-ever Division One final and took it all in their stride, even when Kerry bagged a second goal three minutes into the second half after a mix-up in the Armagh defence, to move ahead by three, 2-4 to 1-4.

It was then Armagh showed just how good they were, scoring 1-6 without reply in a blistering 12-minute spell. Aimee Mackin scored 1-4 of that haul, the Allstar forward bursting into life in the second half after a relatively quiet first 30 minutes by her standards.

It was her effort for a point on the quarter-hour mark that created the first goal for Armagh, coming back off the crossbar with Niamh Coleman on hand to palm the ball home to put Armagh into the lead, 1-3 to 1-1 after Lorraine Scanlon had scored the game’s opening goal in the 10th minute.

Scanlon had reacted quickest to a ball palmed away by Armagh goalkeeper Anna Carr from a Louise Ni Mhuircheartaigh free that dropped short, to fire to the back of the net.

Before that, Kelly Mallon and Ni Mhuircheartaigh had traded early frees before a superb Aoife McCoy point put Armagh 0-2 to 0-1 ahead.

Mallon, again from a free, replied for Armagh after that goal and she hit another point, this time from play, after Coleman’s goal to put them three ahead with eight minutes remaining.

However, Kerry through Ni Mhuircheartaigh finished the half strongly with three points, including two from play, to level the sides level going in at the break, 1-4 apiece.

Kerry and Niamh Ni Chonchuir pounced on a stray pass in the Armagh defence three minutes after the resumption, captain Clodagh McCambridge coming under pressure in her own half-back line and her pass back to Carr going astray, Ni Chonchuir collecting the ball and smashing it to the back of the net.

Armagh did not crumble and their response was perfect and emphatic.

Within three minutes they had the goal wiped out, the sides back level 2-4 to 1-7, even with a Hawkeye disallowed Aimee Mackin point.

Mallon, Mackin (free) and Niamh Henderson, who took her point when she might have had a chance for a goal, all raised the white flag.

Mackin burst into life and she added a second point to give her side a lead which they never relinquished.

The Shane O’Neill player’s goal, Armagh’s second, in the 40th minute, was top drawer – collecting a ball she probably had no right to in between two Kerry defenders, pivoting away from them and shooting past Bolger into the top corner.

Suddenly, Armagh were leading by four, 2-8 to 2-4. They did not stop there, Mackin adding another two points, one from a free and one from play, while they could have had a third goal, Henderson forcing a point-blank save from Bolger.

Kerry halted Armagh’s steam train but it had gathered too much pace.

They outscored their opponents five points to two in the last 12 minutes, Ni Mhuircheartaigh with three from frees, Hannah O’Donoghue and Ciara Murphy also on target for the Munster side and there was still just a kick of the ball between the sides with two minutes remaining.

But Armagh had done enough, seeing the game out with composure to seal an historic win.

Armagh manager Gregory McGonigle spoke about the attitude of his players especially after conceding that second goal.

“It was a great game of football and we are just glad to come out on the right side of it,’’ he said.

‘’At half-time we thought we needed to be a bit more ruthless, ask for more energy, and for the girls to empty themselves.

“The character in the team. We talked about how teams are going to have purple patches, or you are going to make mistakes and we always said it was about reactions, responding and trying to get back up and get the next score and I think we reacted very well,” he said.

“Workrate and attitude are key, and I think that was the big thing in the second half, turnovers that we got, to me those are the wee things that I would appreciate more than kicking a score or making a block, it’s turning over key Kerry players.”

Armagh A Carr; G Ferguson, C McCambridge (capt), R Mulligan; C Towe, L McConville, D Coleman; N Coleman (1-0), C O’Hanlon; E Druse, A McCoy (0-1), L Kenny; A Mackin (1-4, 0-2 frees), N Henderson (0-1), K Mallon (0-5, 0-3 frees)

Subs S Quigley for N Coleman (24), C Doyle (0-1) for Druse (49), M McCambridge for Kenny (57), S Grey for McCoy (58), E Lavery for Mallon (59)

Kerry ME Bolger; C Lynch, D Kearney, E Lynch; A O’Connell, C Murphy (0-1), K Cronin; M O’Connell, A Galvin; N Carmody (capt), N NiChonchuir (1-0), L Scanlon (1-0); H O’Donoghue (0-1), E Dinesen, L Ni Mhuircheartaigh (0-7, 0-6 frees)

Subs D O’Leary for NiChonchuir (40), C O’Brian for Kearney (40), A Harrington for Scanlon (44), K Brosnan for H O’Donoghue (57)

Referee Gus Chapman (Sligo)