‘You take Con O’Callaghan or David Clifford - that’s what Aimee is’ - Armagh have to find a way to cope without injured Mackin says manager Greg McGonigle

Blaithin Mackin recovers from cruciate injury just as Aimee breaks down in Ulster final victory

Aimee Mackin has scored 6-38 in the seven games this season
Aimee Mackin had been in the form of her life for Armagh this season

ARMAGH Ladies have to find a way to win without Aimee Mackin, the player manager Greg McGonigle rates as the best in the country.

Luckless Mackin’s season came to a disappointing end when the Shane O’Neill’s star tore her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) during the Orchard County’s Ulster final victory over Donegal last Sunday.

Mackin, who injured the same knee in 2019, had been in prolific form as the leader of the Armagh attack throughout their march to a first-ever Division One title this year and had contributed four points against Donegal before she limped off after what appeared to be a run-of-the-mill challenge.

Initially Camlough native Mackin hoped the damage wasn’t season-ending but scans later confirmed her worst fears and she will miss the rest of the campaign and her second season with Aussie Rules outfit the Melbourne Demons.

“First and foremost you’re gutted for Aimee,” said Armagh manager McGonigle.

“At first she didn’t think there was the same level of pain in the knee as the first time she injured it but unfortunately the news wasn’t good when she got the scan done.

“She had come back from Australia and worked seriously hard to get herself into the best shape of her life. She was flying and hitting personal bests and her attitude to improving is better than anybody I’ve ever coached before.

Blaithin Mackin of Armagh in action against Emma Costello of Kerry during this year's National League Division Two final. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Blaithin Mackin is expected to return to club action with Shane O'Neill's this weekend

“She’s never happy, she’s always looking to attain new standards and new levels and I think that attitude will help her in her recovery. Maybe the light at the end of the tunnel for her is that she’s come back and won a Player of the Year award after previously doing her cruciate.”

To compound matters for Aimee, her sister Blaithin – who suffered a cruciate injury against Donegal in a pre-season game - has just recovered from injury and will be pushing to start in Armagh’s first All-Ireland senior championship group game against Meath on June 8.

“We will have to find a different way of playing or get other people to step up to Aimee’s role,” said McGonigle.

“We have to two trophies in the cabinet and we need to find a different way now. A positive for us on that side is that Blaithin is ready to go but unfortunately for the Mackin family they’ve never got to play together this year.”

Last year Aimee followed her sister to the AFLW and, despite carrying an injury from the Armagh county championship, she acquitted herself well with the oval ball and was looking forward to a second season in Melbourne.

“She possibly felt she didn’t give the Aussie Rules a full crack and that’s a bit of a disappointment but her main disappointment is that she’s not going to be available again for Armagh this year,” added McGonigle.

The Derry native, who previously managed Monaghan and took Dublin to three All-Ireland finals could also be without Louise Kenny (collarbone injury) for the Meath clash. However, he believes the Armagh squad will rise to the challenge of winning without their talismanic scoring machine.

“You take Con O’Callaghan, David Clifford or somebody of that ilk and that’s what Aimee is – she’s arguably the best footballer in Ireland,” he said.

“If there was a transfer market, everybody would be coming looking for Aimee Mackin and as a group we have to cope without her. As a management team, at least we have a couple of weeks to prepare for our next game.

“There will be a panel of 35 players and it’s up to us to get them motivated and gelled and get them ready and they have all put in a lot of hard work – they’re all getting fitter and faster so it’s a chance for somebody else to step up and put their name into the headlines.

“Blaithin is fit again and you add in the likes of Aoife McCoy and Niamh Henderson, our defence is playing well and we had 10 different scorers on Sunday. Aimee was our strength but we have to find a different strength now and I’ve done that during my time with Dublin when we lost players and no doubt we can do it again.”