Ambitious Armagh Ladies determined to show their worth against Kerry in first-ever Division One final

Clodagh McCambridge says Orchardwomen looking forward to Croke Park battle with Kingdom

Clann Eireann's Clodagh McCambridge kept Moneyglass's star forward Orlaith Prenter relatively quiet in Sunday's Ulster Club SFC semi-final
Clodagh McCambridge will play a key role for Armagh in their first-ever Division One final

ARMAGH Ladies, back in Division One for the first time since 2017, initially targeted survival but six wins out of six saw them booked in for a first ever top flight final with a game to spare.

On Sunday Greg McGonigle’s side face reigning league champions Kerry in the Croke Park decider and they’ll go into it with the confidence of having beaten the Kingdom last month when two goals from top scorer Aimee Mackin and another from evergreen midfielder Caroline O’Hanlon saw them to a 3-14 to 1-13 win.

“The Division One campaign was really positive for us,” says defensive lynchpin Clodagh McCambridge.

“To be in a position now where we’re in our first-ever Division One final is a massive positive for the county.

“At the start of the year our target was to put in performances that showed we could compete against the top teams so to be in a League final is a great experience and it’s great to be back in Croke Park.

“Along with Dublin, Kerry are one of the top teams in the country so to be able to go out and play to our full strength against them will definitely be a challenge but it’s something that the girls are really looking forward to.”

Despite taking a 1-4 to 7-10 trouncing from reigning All-Ireland champions in their final fixture - a dead rubber at the Athletic Grounds - McCambridge says Armagh identified areas for improvement and took positives from a difficult experience.

Aimee Mackin has scored 6-38 in the seven games this season
Aimee Mackin has been in terrific form for Armagh throughout the league

“It wasn’t great,” she says with a smile of the Dublin result.

“Well, I suppose we were lucky that we had already qualified for the final and it was an opportunity to give other girls some game-time who hadn’t had any yet to try and make a mark for the league final.

“And we were resting players we want to keep right for the final and beyond. Dublin were out to win obviously and they were ruthless and clinical. The showed us why they are All-Ireland champions and the level we have to get to.

“It was definitely a big learning experience for us, especially for some of the younger girls. “There’s no better way to get your debut than against the All-Ireland champions and there’s a lot of learning we can take from that – the level of intensity in the tackle, their workrate especially getting out defence…

“It’s something we can bring to our training sessions – upping that level of intensity from back right to front. We can learn from what they did.”

McCambridge won county and Ulster championships with her club Clann Eireann last season and, after the league final, she and her Armagh team-mates will change their focus to an Ulster senior final against Donegal on May 19 and a chance to regain the title the Tir Chonaill women won last year.

“Once we get over the League final our sights will be on that one,” she said.

“Last year Donegal were the better team on the day so after the League final we’ll be looking to prepare well and push on for that game. I’ve been lucky enough to play on a few big days over the last year and play in occasions that mean a lot to, not just ourselves as players, but our families and the people who are there to support us and it’s great to be able to have that.

“There’s lot to look forward to, especially when you look back on those days when we weren’t competing at a senior level in Ulster to now hoping to put in performances to win the Division One title and regain our Ulster title.”