Niamh Martin and a family steeped in Tipperary football

April 13, 2024

Niamh Martin of Tipperary in action against Niamh Ní Chonchúir of Kerry during the TG4 Munster Senior Ladies Football Championship Semi-Final match between Tipperary and Kerry at Páirc Ui Rinn © Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

By Daire Walsh 

When it came to understanding what it means to represent Tipperary at the highest level of inter-county football, Niamh Martin and her sister Nora didn’t have far to look for some guidance. 

Playing under her maiden name of Lyons, the Martins’ mother Ann was part of the last Premier team to win the TG4 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship title — courtesy of a three-point victory against Cavan in Edenderry in September 1980. One of six players on the panel from the Sliabh na mBan club, she had scored a goal in their semi-final win over Galway before going on to start their showpiece success. 

39 years later, Ann looked on as her daughter Niamh won a TG4 All-Ireland Intermediate Championship as part of a Tipp squad that was captained by Samantha Lambert — whose aunt Antoinette was another member of that 1980 winning side. While this is a triumph that she continues to cherish, Niamh one day hopes to join her mother in claiming a top-tier ladies football championship title. 

“It was great and it was unreal to be part of that team at such a young age. We’d love to push on. I think my all-time dream would be to win the Brendan Martin Cup. There’s a lot of history there, my Mam reminds us the whole time that she had won it before,” Martin said. 

“We’d love to be able to say the same back to her. She would have won it many moons ago. She would be slagging us the whole time.” 

Like their mother before them, Niamh and Nora Martin both line out in the Tipperary scene with Sliabh na mBan. Although the club isn’t currently at the same level as the team that won five senior county championships on the bounce from 1980 to 1984, Niamh explains how the present crop of Sliabh na mBan footballers have found themselves on an upward trajectory in recent times. 

“With Sliabh na mBan, we’re kind of a newer team. We had an adult team many moons ago, but only in the past probably four years we started back up again. We started in Junior ‘C’. We won that straight away, then went up to Junior ‘B’ and won that straight away, which is great. 

“Now we’re stuck in Junior ‘A’, but I know the girls are training like mad now. They’re trying to get the fitness levels up. It would be great for the parish as a whole to start moving up again.” 

Despite her club-mate Angela McGuigan - who scored 1-1 in that All-Ireland intermediate final triumph over Meath in 2019 - also being part of the Tipperary panel, playing with her younger sister Nora in the inter-county grade is understandably that extra bit special for Martin. 

Even though she played minor football for the county in the same year, Nora made her All-Ireland senior championship debut for Tipperary in a group stage game against Mayo at Hastings Insurance MacHale Park in Castlebar on June 11, 2022. Niamh rattled the net for her side on the same day and while the Munster outfit ultimately fell to a 1-16 to 1-6 reversal, the pair have been part of more memorable Tipperary performances since then. 

“I love playing with her. It’s like having a built-in team-mate and support system all in one. We go through all the motions together and we’ve a really good relationship on and off the pitch. We understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses. We just know how to drive each other on, but it’s nice having her. We’ve made loads of memories already.” 

The Martin sisters were also regular fixtures throughout this year’s Lidl National Football League as Tipperary achieved a fifth-place finish in Division 2. A record of three wins and four defeats from seven games left them just three points above the relegation zone, but it could have been so much different for Peter Creedon’s charges. 

Remarkably, the four encounters that the Premier County lost during the spring campaign were by the slenderest of margins. In addition to Division 2 finalists (and promoted sides) Kildare and Tyrone edging them out by a single point, Westmeath and Donegal also got the better of them by the bare minimum. 

“It was obviously disappointing to lose four matches by a point. It was especially tough knowing how close we were to being in the final and getting promoted. To be honest, it was actually sickening watching the final, knowing we were definitely capable of being there. 

“We were so close, but that’s what is good about ladies football at the moment. There’s such a fine margin between all teams at the moment. It’s so unpredictable and it can go either way. We have to take positives from all of it as well. It could have been a lot worse. 

“I think watching Armagh win the Division 1 final after just winning the Division 2 final last year, will help teams like us get that belief. We were well able to compete with them last year, so there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to do that some day in the future.” 

Whilst they were very much part of the set-up for the 2024 edition of NFL Division 2, it seems likely that Tipperary will have to make do without both of the Martins for the forthcoming Munster and All-Ireland senior championship campaigns. 

Whereas Nora is currently nursing a shoulder injury, Niamh will be jetting off to Australia tomorrow - a few months in advance of beginning her second season at Australian Rules outfit North Melbourne (with whom she featured in the AFLW Grand Final last year). 

Martin will be keeping a close eye on Tipperary’s progress heading into the summer season, however, and she is hopeful her team-mates can at the very least maintain their senior championship status moving into 2025. 

“I think growing up, everyone wants to reach the highest standard. It’s great that we are senior and that we’re able to play senior. It’s important to stay up senior. I think this year, I know that the Munster championship is definitely open. I think it could be possible to maybe earn a spot in the Munster final,” Martin added. 

“That would be great and the girls are definitely more than capable of getting there. I know they’re putting the heads down now. Hopefully they could make the Munster final and stay up senior.” 

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