Mackin: Do believe the hype
Tuesday, 15 November 2016
SHANE O'Neill's Ladies play in their biggest ever game since the teams' inception in 2007, when they take on Parnells in Sunday's (at 12.30pm) All-Ireland Championship semi-final.
The Camlough club will host this massive game, which is to attract its biggest crowd since Armagh officially opened the pitch.
Think Shane O'Neill's Ladies and the name Aimee Mackin rolls off the tongue. The prolific Mackin has been the marquee player for Shane O'Neill's since the ladies team was established and recently she has carried that mantra into the Armagh Ladies team.
There is no doubting Mackin's talent, to put into perspective she possesses the footballing ability of Jamie Clarke and Benny Coulter rolled into one. Yes she is that good and still has room to improve. This season Aimee has scored an incredible 17-38 in the Club Championships this season, with 9-20 in the Armagh Club Championship and 8-18 in the Ulster Club Championship.
And while Aimee prefers to do her talking on the pitch the Newry Democrat caught up with the Health and Leisure Studies student, where she made clear that playing for the club she grew up with means much more than her own performances.
Although she did admit: "I like to see the net rattle alright."
Despite the team only being formed as an U12 team in 2007, they won titles at U12, U14 and 16 at county level before winning the Ulster Minor title only three years ago, where a youthful Mackin was a star. In that same year (2013) Aimee also made her international debut with Northern Ireland senior ladies football team in a World Cup Qualifier and helped steer Newry City Ladies to promotion.
Now, Mackin is studying at Strand Millis through Queen's University but she insists that balancing her time with study and various sports is not stressful.
“I just try and take it as it comes and just get on with it. Sometimes it gets hectic but I just deal with it and do the best I can, but when you have good family and friends around you it make everything that much better," said Aimee.
Indeed with two sisters, Blathinn and Yasmin in the squad, Aimee feels that the bond between players is what makes her team so special.
“Like every family you have a few arguments but not on the pitch we are a type of team that don't argue with each other," said Aimee.
“We are all best friends off the pitch and even this year we do a lot of things together off the pitch and I think off the pitch you can see how strong a bond we have. Especially playing with my sisters and my family - there is no bigger thing than playing with your club, it is one of the best things you can do, it is a huge honour and I just love playing for my club and I love trying to win things as well."
The folding of Dromintee Ladies allowed players such as Shauna Grey, Aoife McCoy and goalkeeper Katie Daly join Shanes at the start of this season and Mackin believes their inclusion has been significant this year.
“Three of the top players in Armagh or maybe even Ulster joined us from Dromintee. "They are three great girls on and off the pitch and they have gelled with the team even though they knew they had to fight for their place on the team, which has definitely increased competition for places, which made training even better," she said.
Sunday's opponents Parnells are London based British Champions and are a formidable team and while Shanes' attacking threat is well documented the south Armagh defence will have their work cut out too.
Emma Kenny or Ellen Hannaway will likely be given the difficult task of marking Parnells main goal-getter Niamh Murphy, while captain Louise Kenny may be asked to curb the influence of Fiona Morrissey or Aine Gormley.
Aoibhann Jones and Moya Feehan are outstanding footballers in their own right and have been the key players along with the Mackin's over the years.
Whitecross duo Kirsty Murphy and Sorcha McDonnell also impressed in the Ulster Final win and there is little doubting Shanes have strength in depth.
Aimee is expecting a tough battle on Sunday and while she is focused on delivering a top performance the sense of occasion isn't lost on the 19-year-old.
“At this stage of the competition every team is going to be good and when you meet a team from across the water it is hard because they have players from all over Ireland.
“We are looking forward to the game and my opinion on football is that there are no favourites, it is always who performs on the day," said Mackin.
“Playing for Shanes means everything to me and to reach an All-Ireland Final would mean a lot but we have a huge game on Sunday and we will try our best.
“I know we were in the Junior All-Ireland semi-final so this is a grade up and I know this is one of the biggest games from both genders around Camlough.
I was down in the shop and everyone was talking about it. It will be a game that will attract a huge crowd and that is great."
Aimee is an unassuming woman with a wonderful talent and attitude. For a player of her talent, she is not in the slightest way concerned about her reputation but her team means everything.
“I don't know what other people's expectations are of me or pay much attention I simply focus on my team and improving my own performances," said Aimee.
“What people expect of me doesn't really matter when it comes to playing for Shanes. I just want to try my best and I know what I am capable off so every game and every training session I will try to perform to my best," said Mackin.
“I just want to keep performing well but it is a team sport, it is not really about how I perform, it is how the team performs that matters.
“Personally I just want to keep playing and keep doing well with the club and Armagh and keep striving to give it my best. At the end of day what is more important to me is that the club do well, even if I don't."
Shane O'Neill's Ladies face Parnells at the Camlough club, in the Ladies All-Ireland Championship semi-final on Sunday (November 20) with a 12.30pm throw in.
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