Ciara Donnelly carries fine scoring form into Armagh's Littlewoods National Camogie League campaign
CIARA Donnelly was the star of the All-Ireland Premier Junior final last December when she bagged 13 points against Cavan in the final.
The Eglish club player was at it once again in the first round of the Littlewoods Division Three when she fired home four goals and four points against Down at Mayobridge and this time Donnelly was not on frees.
Her younger sister Leanne, who had scored four points from play in the All-Ireland final, bagged a goal from the penalty spot in Mayobridge and the result has brought the Orchard county through to the league semi-finals regardless of the outcome of tomorrow’s league game in Pearse Óg Park against Wexford.
However the team that wins this game will get the better draw in those semi-finals – even a draw will see Armagh top the table on score difference – and that would be a huge boost to new boss Mattie Lennon as he builds towards hoped summer success in the championship.
That game a fortnight ago was the first time that Lennon had seen his Armagh team in action. He used the first fortnight after the Covid restrictions were relaxed to hold trials and that gave him just three training session to prepare for the opening game.
Not unexpectedly he had been wary of the challenge given that Down had beaten Armagh twice last year and had talked about relying on the experienced players to get the start they needed.
Overall Lennon has gathered together quite a young squad but they responded well to the new management team despite the Donnelly sisters grabbing the headlines once more.
With Offaly withdrawing from the group Armagh has had a fortnight to prepare for the visit of Wexford and Lennon should be a lot more familiar with his charges.
Last week Wexford beat Down by 1-11 to 1-5. So they too have qualified for the semi-finals and will be a decent test for Armagh.
This is the Slaneysiders second team and they do not have stand out forward in the mould of Ciara Donnelly – but they might have a good one-on-one marker or a sweeper to counteract the Eglish girl’s influence.
If that happens the focus will move to others to pick up the baton.
Armagh at home should collect the points, but it will be a close game.
Limerick and Carlow are in pole position to progress from Group Two. Their meeting last week ended in a draw and therefore the pair need to avoid defeat to progress. Limerick look to have the easier task, against Waterford, while Carlow have a stiff game ahead against visiting Clare.
* CAVAN and Tyrone are already into the semi-finals of this division, but their meeting could have huge consequences for both teams.
The pair met in the Nancy Murray Cup final in November with Cavan picking up their first trophy since their return to adult camogie. Tyrone held on for long periods, but Cavan pulled away towards the end.
Since then the Breffni side has improved on each outing. They reached the Premier Junior final where they gave Armagh a good run for their money before inexperience got the better of them.
This year they have impressed in their first two outings, high-scoring wins over Wicklow and Antrim, with the movement of the forward line and the contribution of new players, Hannah Fitzsimons and Clodagh Keenaghan, very impressive.
Tyrone have beaten the same two teams, but reached nowhere near the same level of team play. A young enough side, they are very dependent on Eglish teenager Reagan Fay for scores.
I cannot see Tyrone beating Cavan, but if they run the game close, they will be in a decent place for the upcoming semi-final and for the championship season ahead.
In the other group, Roscommon and Mayo are the form teams.
Verdicts: Wins for Cavan, Roscommon and Mayo.
Littlewoods Division Three
Kilmallock Limerick v Waterford
Pearse Óg Armagh: Armagh v Wexford
Fenagh: Carlow v Clare
Littlewoods Division Four League
(tomorrow, 1pm, unless stated)
Arklow: Wicklow v Antrim
Éire óg, Carrickmore: Tyrone v Cavan
Toreen: Mayo v Louth
4pm in Hawkfield: Kildare v Roscommon