Greg McGonigle hails trio as Armagh hit the summit in Division One of Lidl NFL

Aimee Mackin, Kelly Mallon and Caroline O’Hanlon to the fore as Orchard county beat Meath

Caroline O'Hanlon and Aimee Mackin
Caroline O'Hanlon and Aimee Mackin Caroline O'Hanlon and Aimee Mackin celebrate Armagh's win over Meath on Sunday (Seb Daly / SPORTSFILE/SPORTSFILE)

Lidl Ladies’ NFL Division One, round four Meath 0-8 Armagh 2-12

ARMAGH manager Greg McGonigle paid tribute to his goalscorers Aimee Mackin and Kelly Mallon, along with the versatile and long-serving Caroline O’Hanlon after a  comfortable win over Meath at Donaghmore-Ashbourne yesterday.

The Orchard county maintained their brilliant start to the campaign with Mackin and Mallon scoring 1-4 each  to make it four wins from four games, leaving them top of the table.

“As I keep saying to younger players coming into our set-up, Aimee Mackin and Kelly Mallon are the last two people to leave the field every single night and they’re the first two people on the field,” said McGonigle.

“It doesn’t come from our coaching, it comes from them being diligent and putting in the hard work. That’s obviously why they’re two of the best forwards in Ireland.

“She is nearly superhuman,” McGonigle added about O’Hanlon who had played for Leeds Rhinos in the Netball Superleague on Saturday. “She’s a credit to not even just female athletes, but any athlete as regards playing at the top of your game. Her knowledge of the game as regards her coaching of younger players. We have a lot of 18, 19 year olds on the panel, who mightn’t get game time, but they’re getting some experience playing with Caroline O’Hanlon.”

Armagh led by 0-7 to 0-5 at the interval and pushed for victory when Mackin found the net seven minutes after the restart, while Mallon’s strike killed off any notion of a comeback by Meath.

“It was obviously a big game, whoever won would get on top of the table,” said Meath player Mary Kate Lynch.

“It’s not gone away from us. We still have three games left and it’s still there for the taking. I think it’s still there for anyone really at this point in time. We’ll have to just reassess, go back. See where the errors were and kick on from there.”

Both teams had come into this game with 100 per cent records from the opening three rounds, but with Mackin and Mallon leading their charge, it is Armagh who are the new pace-setters in the top tier.

While Emma Duggan shone brightly throughout, Meath — who are under the guidance of former Orchard boss Shane McCormack in 2024 — ultimately suffered their first defeat of the campaign.

O’Hanlon got Armagh up and running with a second-minute point at the end of a patient move. 2020 TG4 Senior Players’ Player of the Year Mackin followed up with a neat score, before both she and O’Hanlon doubled their respective tallies to offer Armagh an early stranglehold on the contest.

Meath finally opened their account through a Niamh Gallogly point on the first-quarter mark and their deficit was further reduced when Emma Duggan found the target either side of a Mallon free.

Mallon and Mackin went on to add placed-ball efforts for the visitors, but with Maire O’Shaughnessy and Duggan splitting the uprights in fine style, Meath were just two points in arrears at 0-7 to 0-5 at the interval.

It was an initially tentative start to the second period from both teams, but the excellent Mackin brought the tie back to life by finishing superbly to the net off her reliable left boot seven minutes after the resumption.

And, while the Royals responded to this setback with points from Aoibhin Cleary and Marion Farrelly (free), Mackin and Eve Lavery also raised white flags to keep Armagh in the driving seat.

Their chances of extending their winning run were given a further boost heading into the final-quarter as Mallon lashed home a second goal for the Ulster side via impressive approach work by Mackin.

This effectively placed the outcome beyond doubt and in spite of Duggan contributing her fourth point of the action, Emily Druse and Mallon (two) also found the range late on to put the seal on an emphatic Armagh victory.