Thriller in prospect as Armagh's big two meet in senior championship decider

Carrickcruppen captain Sharon Reel and Clann Eireann captain Niamh Henderson pictured ahead of Sunday's Armagh Senior Ladies' Football final Picture: Brendan Monaghan
Louise Gunn

Buttercrane Shopping Centre Armagh Senior Ladies' Football Championship final: Carrickcruppen v Clann Eireann (today, Athletic Grounds, 5pm)

THEY have dominated Armagh ladies club football for the past decade and a half but this is the first final meeting of giants Carrickcruppen and Clann Eireann since 2018 as they battle it out for senior county honours at the Athletic Grounds this evening.

Clann Eireann, once more under the tutelage of the experienced James Daly, dumped out defending champions Armagh Harps, who had won the title for the last two years, are favourites to reclaim the Marie Hoye Cup, which they last won in 2019. 

The Lurgan-based club have enjoyed most of the success when it has come to previous final experience, winning 10 titles between 2006 and 2019 and Carrickcruppen the other four, most recently in 2018.

That 2018 final between the two had the most dramatic of endings. It looked like Clann Eireann were on their way to another title but two quick second half goals by ‘Cruppen stalwart Caroline O’Hanlon saw them win by the narrowest of margins.

Despite all those regular meetings over the years, championship encounters featuring them both have dried up and this is the first time the sides will have met in the competition since the turn of the decade. 

This is Carrickcruppen’s 13th county final in 15 years, but their last three final appearances have ended in defeat, Clann Eireann in 2019 and back-to-back losses to Armagh Harps.

They have had victories over Dromahill and Silverbridge on route to the final. O’Hanlon remains a key player to their success but she has an abundance of support in captain Sharon Reel, Allstar nominee in Orchard goalkeeper Anna Carr while the likes of Caitlin Malone, Caoimhe Murray, Sinead Finnegan and Rebecca O’Reilly all have inter-county experience and Caitriona O’Hagan, an Armagh minor, is also in the senior county panel. They also have former Fermanagh player Sarah McCausland.

Clann Eireann have a real mix of experience and youth. They have five current county players, Irish News All Star corner-back Clodagh McCambridge, Cait Towe, Tiarna Grimes and Megan McCann while there are a number of former Orchard stars in Mags Carvill (McAlinden), Sinead Kernan (McCleary), Meabh Moriarty, Catherine McAlinden, Laura Brown, sisters Niamh and Aoibhinn Henderson and Grainne McAlinden.

They have made a real push for county honours this year with the likes of Carvill returning and Daly coming back in there to manage as well. The two teams have served up some thrillers in their time and although Clann Eireann are favourites, Carrickcruppen will go in knowing they have every chance they can put last three years of final heartache behind them.

The intermediate final between Ballyhegan and Mullabrack is the first of the double-header in the Athletic Grounds today.