Donegal and Armagh have points to prove in Ulster Ladies' football decider says Caroline O'Hanlon
ARMAGH and Donegal have split the last four Ulster Ladies' Football titles between them with the Tir Chonaill women reigning supreme from 2017 to 2019 and the Orchard county hitting back last year.
However, that title was clinched in Donegal's absence after the defending champions opted out of the 2020 provincial championship.
Caroline O'Hanlon says Armagh want to prove that they are worthy Ulster champions in Saturday's final.
“They are a top side,” says the Carrickcruppen midfielder, who will be fully fit for the final.
“They are a division one side and they're highly competitive, they've been in All-Ireland quarter-finals and semi-finals consistently over the past five or six years.
“We know that they have top quality players, particularly in their attack so both sides will know each other very well. We didn't play them last year so they'll have a point to prove and equally, we won the Ulster Championship and they didn't take part, so we have a point to prove.
“There won't be much in it, I think both teams match up pretty evenly and it'll be similar to the Meath match – who gets the basics right and who works harder on the day will get over the line.”
All-Ireland semi-finalists in 2020, the Orchardwomen reached the quarter-finals this year and went into their game against Meath as favourites after winning all three of their group games. But the Ulster side failed to fire and lost out 3-15 to 1-14 and O'Hanlon, who missed the game with injury, insists that the Royals' display on the day came as no surprise to her.
“Other people were underestimating Meath more than we were,” she said.
“They beat us in the league last year and got promoted to Division One. They'd been playing well in Division One so we were under no illusion that it was going to be a very tough game.
“They are certainly a team on the up so their performance wasn't a shock – our performance was a bit of a shock in so much as we made too many errors and their workrate, organisation and discipline was better than ours so that was disappointing. But I wouldn't say I was shocked by their performance because anyone that has seen Meath over the last few years would know they have been so consistent in doing the simple things and working hard and they have a great balance in their team.
“It was our personal performance and our error-rate that was disappointing.”
After their eye-catching victory over Armagh, Eamonn Murray-managed Meath went on to claim another notable scalp in Cork at the semi-final stage and now face five in-a-row chasing Dublin on September 5.
O'Hanlon says all the pressure is on the Dubs.
“I expect Meath to do what they've been doing consistently,” she said.
“They get a lot of players behind the ball and they break quickly and they have a very balanced team. They have a balanced team and they share the work load so, while the workrate is very high, it's not down to one or two players to carry the can, they are all contributing and they're all working hard and creating space, doing the dirty work for each other.
“Dublin are very experienced but Meath have nothing to lose – all the pressure is on Dublin, they are red-hot favourites. Meath are confident and sure of their system and they are a dangerous force.”