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Marley sisters in the spotlight as Armagh bid to pick up speed

 

On song: Eimear Smyth can be a big hit for Fermanagh
On song: Eimear Smyth can be a big hit for Fermanagh
Lead role: Armagh captain Caoimhe Morgan returns
John Campbell

By John Campbell

It's not often four sisters grace the starting line-up of any team in the premier sector of ladies football but Armagh will make a big breakthrough in this connection today.

The Marley clan, through captain Caoimhe (36), Sarah (33), Niamh (27) and Catherine (22), will be represented in style when the Orchard County take on Cork in the All-Ireland Ladies Football Championship at O'Connor Park, Tullamore (3.15pm).

The quartet will be starting together in the side for the first time and their overall experience is certain to prove a boon for joint managers Fionnuala McAtamney and Lorraine McCaffrey.

The Orchard County received a heavy drubbing from Donegal in the Ulster final (5-12 to 1-9) when they were somewhat understrength and in doing so lost some of their credibility.

Their task now is to try and retrieve this, although against a Cork side in upbeat mode that will be anything but easy.

Skipper Caoimhe, whose married name is Morgan, certainly spells out her team's mission in stark terms.

"Our pride is at stake and we have to look at ourselves. We cannot afford to lose any more ground, that would be disastrous. I think all the players know they have to be prepared to go the extra mile," says the Armagh city schoolteacher.

Their team is also backboned by players such as Aoife McCoy, Kelly Mallon, Aimee Mackin and Meabh Moriarty, but Cork, fresh from their 2-14 to 0-9 win over a much improved Waterford in the Munster final, can look to a number of players who have considerable Championship experience.

Into this category come Melissa Duggan, Aishling Hutchings, Daire Kelly, Niamh Cotter and Orla Finn.

Donegal also face a formidable mission in the All-Ireland series against Mayo as part of an attractive Tullamore double bill (1.30pm).

Donegal manager Maxie Curran is urging his side to rise to the occasion and erase the memory of their shock 3-12 to 3-9 defeat to Tyrone last week.

Skipper Karen Guthrie along with Geraldine McLaughlin, Amy Boyle Carr and Niamh McLaughlin can help spark a Donegal revival.

Manager Curran, clearly disappointed by his team's setback against Tyrone, is urging a greater all-round effort this time out.

"I think we left it behind us the last day," says Curran. "I thought at times we were on top and maybe could have pushed on from there, but Tyrone stayed with us and then produced a strong finish.

"I think we have to learn from that experience and step up the tempo. This is a very challenging environment and we certainly can take nothing for granted."

In the All-Ireland Intermediate Championship, Kildare will face Down at Newbridge (12pm), while in the Junior Championship Antrim and Fermanagh will meet for the fifth time this year, held at Glenavy (2pm) on this occasion.

The Saffrons won last time out and appear to have gained in confidence. Captain Saoirse Tennyson and hot-shot Cathy Carey can help to fire up Antrim again, while Joanne Doonan and free-scoring teenager Eimear Smyth are capable of underpinning the Erne girls' resistance.

Antrim manager Sean O'Kane believes his side has matured as the season has progressed.

"You would have to say that we have improved as time has passed but this All-Ireland Junior Championship is very competitive, no matter what people might think," says O'Kane.

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