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John Morrison backs Armagh girls for final say

By David Mason

John Morrison, the lauded football coach who is currently in charge of Monaghan ladies, gives Armagh every chance of making an All-Ireland final this weekend, but states they are up against something special in Eamon Ryan's Cork ladies.

The former Donegal, Derry and Leitrim co-manager, along with long-time collaborator Mickey Moran, focussed his attentions on ladies' football this season and was on the line for the Oriel ladies when they lost a thrilling Ulster final to James Daly's Armagh side.

This Saturday, they are under the watchful gaze of the TG4 cameras in Pearse Park, Longford, as they take on the Rebelletes, winners of eight of the last nine All-Ireland titles.

Morrison feels however, that both sides are in danger of taking their own form for granted.

"Armagh are very confident. They beat teams by cricket scores, but in the National League final they were nearly caught," he said.

Morrison correctly identifies Caroline O'Hanlon as Armagh's greatest strength, commenting: "She has been almost a professional sports woman this year with her involvement in the Irish netball team."

One player who will be a massive loss is Mairead Tennyson, the attacker-turned-cornerback, who has dislocated her shoulder.

However, they are also served well by midfielder Niamh Henderson.

A major threat up front is Laura McConville, daughter of former county forward Jim, and niece of the legendary Oisín, who is just as potent as her lineage would suggest. Sporting all-rounder, with talents in camogie and road bowls also, Kelly Mallon, is an important component of the forward line.

Other notable inclusions this year have been in the coaching staff. Daly has added former player and Ulster Council coach Aileen Matthews to the backroom, along with the ever-positive influence of Patricia McEvoy.

In assessing Armagh's chances, Morrison explained: "It depends on where Cork's heads are. If they believe the hype about them being the unstoppable force, they could drop their focus. Armagh will live on the possibility of that – they ran Cork to a point last year in the qualifiers. Cork lost their Munster title to Kerry last year and almost lost that game to Armagh so it seemed to wise them up.

"Eamonn Ryan (Cork manager) is a shrewd man, but they have to fight the complacency and find out the true strength of Armagh. Cork have a game of 'off the shoulder' while Armagh have the better kicking game."

Meanwhile, Fermanagh ladies are bidding once again to make it to the All-Ireland Intermediate final, which could be an all-Ulster affair against Down, when they face Roscommon in the curtain-raiser (throw-in 1.45pm).

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