Orchard ripe for Dublin
Tuesday, 6 May 2014
CAROLINE O'Hanlon has already lifted two trophies in the past week but that isn't why the Orchard captain says silverware is only the secondary consideration for Armagh going into Saturday's Tesco HomeGrown National League final in Dublin.
Obviously being presented with the trophy would be the icing on the cake at Parnell Park but O'Hanlon insists the promotion which comes with winning is the more important prize.
Armagh meet Waterford on Saturday (May 10) at 12.15pm, with the NFL Division Three title at stake but, with only one team going up unlike in the men's, that ticket to next season's second division is top priority for James Daly's side. Their costly lapse in last year's corresponding game when two late goals gave Down a shock victory condemned Armagh to a third successive season in the third tier, a lower level of football than this talented team is capable of competing in.
The ever-pragmatic O'Hanlon dismisses cliches about Armagh being too good for the third division, citing their previous failure to get out of it as evidence enough, but agrees staying stuck there holds up progression.
“You always want to win titles and trophies but getting promotion means most to us this weekend in terms of facilitating the growth of this team. Playing in Division Three certainly isn't ideal, although it's our own fault we're still there," she admits.
“As soon as the final was over last year we'd have loved to play it again straight away, knowing we wastefully left it behind us. We've tried to make the most of the 12 months since then and produced promising performances in the Championship last summer, but we simply must get it right this time.
“There has been a strong sense of purpose right from the start of the year and although standards subsconsciously slip sometimes in league games when you're not being pushed hard enough, I'm pretty happy with where we are. "There are a few new players in this season who have really added to the squad and brought fresh energy. The increasing competition for places helps push standards and in spite of the odd dip, which we've also learned from, I think we've kept progressing.
“We've a lot of trust in our very good management team and a sense that things are going in the right direction, but now we must make that count this weekend, driven by the hurt held onto from last year."
“Waterford are a very strong side with very good players so we can't underestimate them at all. We respect every opponent but at this level should be backing ourselves to come out on top if we produce our best performance. "There hasn't been much between the teams when we've met a few times in recent seasons except the game a few weeks ago when we were both already assured of play-off places and our five second half goals gave the scoreline an inflated look, so we can't read too much into that.
“I'd don't think previous encounters have that much significance, particularly for a final, as it's all about performing on the day. They'll hardly fear us but, knowing what we're capable of, our focus is on ourselves and ensuring we deliver a big game on Saturday," reflects O'Hanlon.
Armagh will hope to be less wayward than their last Dublin decider against Waterford when they won by seven points in spite of kicking 21 wides at Croke Park in the 2012 All-Ireland Intermediate final. By contrast they were clinical in hitting the net in their last league game away to Waterford last month when the Orchard outfit triumphed 6-12 to 1-5 and O'Hanlon herself has scored at least one goal in every Armagh match she has played this year.
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