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Clodagh McCambridge: ‘Making history isn’t something to shy away from’

Armagh captain says her team are up for the challenge as they aim to beat Kerry in their first appearance in a Division One final

Clodagh McCambridge says Armagh are not hiding away from history this week, as they prepare for their first ever appearance in a Lidl National Football League Division One final.

McCambridge, who will captain the Orchard County against reigning league champions Kerry at Croke Park on Sunday, was part of the Armagh team that claimed the Division Two league title last season.

On that day 12 months ago, Armagh’s victory over Laois was the curtain-raiser for the showpiece Division One decider between Kerry and Galway. However, Armagh set a blistering pace in the top-flight this season and are now hoping to win a first Division One title.

“We have talked about it,” says McCambridge. “Even just getting to the final, many good Armagh teams have gone before us and didn’t get to this position, so it’s not something to shy away from, it’s something to be really proud of. I think that will be another motivating factor going into the match as we try to make history.


“Any opportunity to win silverware is massive, a Division One title is really special, it’s something that no Armagh team has done before.”

Armagh won their opening six games in Division One – beating Waterford, Cork, Galway, Meath, Kerry, and Mayo – to secure a place in the final before their last group game against Dublin.

The Ulster side fielded a much-changed team for that fixture and suffered a 7-10 to 1-4 defeat to the Dubs, though McCambridge does not believe such a trouncing will have left any scars.

“As soon as our Mayo game the previous week was over, it was probably something we had spoken about. We wanted to give other girls an opportunity while resting players that needed the rest.

“Dublin were a lot stronger in a game they had to win and they showed on the day why they are All-Ireland champions.”

McCambridge, who works as an actuary, is a former netball international and represented Northern Ireland until under-21 level before fully committing to Gaelic football.

And while she namechecks the 2002 Armagh senior men’s footballers as a standout team, as a kid McCambridge was actually brought to shout on the Antrim hurlers more than the Armagh footballers.

Her dad, John, is originally from Antrim and her uncles Conor, Ciarán and Michael McCambridge all hurled for the Saffrons.

Clodagh’s brother, Barry, is part of Kieran McGeeney’s Armagh senior men’s football squad. They lost a Division Two league final to Donegal last Sunday, so the women’s team hope to have better fortune at Croke Park this weekend.

“When we were playing in Division Two for so long, to finally get promoted helped girls to really enjoy their football, competing against all the top teams,” she adds.

“A lot of our girls hadn’t played in Division One before and you can get nervous, so at the start we were just targeting staying up. People might have thought we were one of the teams who were at risk of getting relegated, so you want to kind of squash that early enough, if you can.

“We were lucky enough to get over the line in our first home game, against Cork, but then once you get three or four wins you’re looking to push on and see if you can make the final then.

“We believe we are able to compete with the top teams. There’s probably not that much of a difference between Division One and Two, it’s probably just using that momentum. You get in the habit of winning games.”

McCambridge made her league debut in 2016, but in comparison to Caroline O’Hanlon she is still only finding her feet at this level. This is O’Hanlon’s 23rd season lining out for Armagh, a remarkable achievement in its own right but quite extraordinary when you consider she continues to play elite netball for Leeds Rhinos in the UK’s Netball Super League.

“We are really lucky to have her in the camp, not just what she adds on the field but off the field her communication and leadership skills, especially for the younger girls in the group, to play and learn from her is massive,” says McCambridge.

Armagh enter Sunday’s league final showdown as slight outsiders, despite having beaten Kerry 3-14 to 1-13 when the sides met in early March during the group stages.

But if nothing else, that victory confirmed to the Armagh players they belonged in the top tier of the game.

“We had great battles with Kerry over the years but just hadn’t got over the line,” says McCambridge. “We’d been competitive until a certain point but they ended up pushing on.

“So the game this season, in other years that might have been one we would have lost. We were up at half-time, they had a good third quarter, but we were still able to see it out.

“I think that’s something that will give the group a lot of confidence, having that experience of getting over the line. It might not necessarily go that way in the league final but it is something we can take a lot of confidence from ahead of Sunday.”