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Clarke hoping his Orchard girls can show their mettle

By Declan Bogue

Armagh ladies manager Ronan Clarke has vowed to get over the disappointment of being beaten by Monaghan in the Ulster semi-final by getting the Orchard girls back on track as they face former champions Waterford in the All-Ireland preliminary round today (Clane, 2pm throw-in).

The 2002 All-Ireland winner and former Young Player of the Year said after the defeat to the Oriels: "It was one of those days when nothing really went right for us.

"We didn't start and I have played in many of those games in the Championship myself. It just doesn't come for you.

"We picked things up after that and we are looking forward to this game. Hopefully we can get a run in this year's Championship. But it is going to be tough.

"We have met Waterford over the last couple of years and it is always a good, tight contest. We expect the same this weekend."

Clarke will be without defender Sinead Kernan for the tussle against the Deise girls.

The wife of Armagh senior ace Tony Kernan picked up an injury while playing in goal for her club Clann Eireann, breaking her elbow and leaving her sidelined for the rest of the campaign.

Clarke has been credited with raising the standards of treatment afforded to female players in recent months, and he shared his thoughts on gaining parity for the ladies' code.

"I was shocked at the way they were being treated," he said.

"They are putting in the same effort and commitment as the fellas and all I put in place were the things I thought would make the difference for them; food after training, getting physio appointments paid for them and so on.

"But they have done it all off their own back - they had a big fundraising night in Dundalk at the dogs, to get stuff like food after training."

Clarke's endeavours have received a lot of help from administrators on the ladies' county board.

"The county board have been great, Owen Reel (ladies' county board chairman) has been great, any money they have raised has been put into the team to take them to the next level."

Clarke has the services of former Fermanagh ladies coach Lisa Woods, who quit the Erne post prior to last summer's Championship citing a lack of commitment among the panel, and is now a selector with her native county.

Her experience has been invaluable to Clarke.

"She has given me a great insight into ladies' football. I value her opinion highly and she is very good with the girls," he enthused.

And the Pearse Ógs man maintains there is little difference in managing either gender, having had success with local team Tullysaran.

"It's not much different from coaching fellas," he insisted.

"It is a big ask for them after what happened to them in the Ulster Championship, but we just sat down, looked at the video and saw where we went wrong and how we could rectify our mistakes.

"We have done that now and we have a good chance in the Championship. I know this is the back door, the second bite of the cherry, but we have to make it count."

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph