By Daire Walsh
The magnificent Aimee Mackin struck 3-3 at Croke Park as Armagh secured their third Lidl NFL Division 2 title with a final victory against Laois.
Previous winners of the competition in 2005 and 2015, next year will see Shane McCormack’s Ulster outfit return to the top-tier of Division 1 for the first time since 2017.
Despite conceding an early point to Laois’ former camogie star Sarah Anne Fitzgerald, Armagh stormed into the contest with three goals in as many minutes. After Aoife McCoy had rounded off a fine team move with a poked finish, Aimee Mackin’s attempted pass towards captain Kelly Mallon floated all the way into the net.
Mackin had 6-22 to her name for 2023 coming into this contest and she rattled the net once again in the fifth minute with a superb strike from close-range. While Laois eventually responded with an effort by Erone Fitzpatrick, Shane O’Neill’s ace Mackin completed her hat-trick on nine minutes in typically clinical style.
Fitzpatrick and raiding half-back Ellen Healy went on to add points for the Leinster side, but Aimee Mackin and Mallon found the range in between their scores to keep Armagh in firm control. Blaithin Mackin joined her older sister on the scoreboard with a fine point, before a 1-1 haul from Mo Nerney - including a 28th minute penalty - reduced Laois’ deficit to seven, 4-3 to 1-5, in time for the interval.
This offered hope to the O’Moore County on the resumption and the gap was down to five after Fitzpatrick and Fitzgerald added to their personal tallies. An outstanding Aimee Mackin point appeared to help Armagh settle back into the game, but Laois once again displayed their mettle when Laura Nerney burst through the opposition defence to kick a 42nd minute goal.
Although this threw down the gauntlet to Armagh, the Orchard women reinforced their authority with five points on the spin. Supplementing an Aimee Mackin free, Mallon, Niamh Reel, McCoy and Blaithin Mackin all split the uprights from open play to give their side a commanding eight-point cushion.
Fitzgerald (two) and Fitzpatrick added late points for a Laois side that kept fighting until the end, but Armagh had done enough by then to come out on top.
Scorers - Armagh: A Mackin 3-3 (0-1f), A McCoy 1-2, B Mackin 0-2, K Mallon, N Reel 0-1 each. Laois: SA Fitzgerald (3f), E Fitzpatrick 0-4 each, M Nerney 1-1 (1-0 pen), L Nerney 1-0, E Healy 0-1.
ARMAGH: A Carr; S Grey, C McCambridge, L Kenny; G Ferguson, L McConville, C Towe; N Coleman, E Lavery; B Mackin, A Mackin, C Marley; C O’Hagan, K Mallon, A McCoy. Subs: E Druse for Kenny (38), N Marley for Lavery (39), N Reel for O’Hagan (46), B Hendron for Mallon, C O’Hanlon for C Marley (both 57).
LAOIS: E Barry; S Farrelly, C Dunne, A Kelly; S Havill, E Healy, L Nerney; A Healy, A Moran; E Galvin, O Hennessy, E Fitzpatrick; M Nerney, SA Fitzgerald, LM Maher. Subs: G Lalor for Moran (53), A Kirrane for L Nerney (57).
Ref: Gus Chapman (Sligo).Tweet