Daly salutes five star O’Hanlon

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Wednesday, June 5th, 2013
Armagh manager James Daly has hailed Orchard ladies legend Caroline O’Hanlon after she was named in the Team of the National League for a record fifth year running.

Armagh Captain Caroline O’Hanlon

The incomparable Carrickcruppen player was one of three Armagh heroes honoured during last Thursday night’s Croke Park awards ceremony hosted by the LGFA and National League sponsors. She is joined in the select side by another long-serving stalwart Sinead McCleary and brilliant teenager Fionnuala McKenna, though Armagh might have expected even greater representation considering they topped the Division Three table. However both Daly’s side and Down, who dramatically snatched the title and sole promotion place available with a goal in injury-time of last month’s final at Parnell Park, had to settle for a trio apiece in the ceremonial line-up. Double All Star O’Hanlon, who captained Armagh throughout the recent campaign, is the only player in the country to have been honoured in every season since the Teams of the League awards were introduced by previous sponsors Bord Gais in 2009. The 28-year-old Daisy Hill Hospital doctor’s inclusion for an unprecedented fifth time was inevitable after a typically consistent campaign in which she produced a series of top-drawer displays in the Armagh midfield. O’Hanlon wasn’t there to receive her presentation in person due to the event clashing with her duties as an international netballer, but the applause which greeted the announcement of her name underlined the respect in which the 2012 All Ireland Intermediate Player of the Year is held. “There’s huge respect throughout ladies football for Caroline O’Hanlon and for her achievements, character and commitment – and that was evident at the event. The master of ceremonies couldn’t say enough good about her,” reflects Daly.

Fionnuala McKenna receives her award

“It’s all been said at this stage, almost to the point of being boring, but she gives everything, keeps producing to the highest standards and deserves every possible plaudit. She’s an exceptional athlete and leader who we’re privileged to work with. “If she came from Cork, the amount of honours she’d have won in this sport would be frightening but fortunately she’s a proud Armagh woman who has given great service to our county through good times and bad for over a decade – and with power to add. “She wasn’t able to collect her latest honour because she’s away at the European Netball Championships, straight after winning the interpro title with Ulster last weekend, but that’s just typical of her schedule and appetite for competing at the highest possible level.” Converted full forward McCleary was handed the Tesco team No 14 jersey in spite of never having played there prior to the recent campaign and missing three of the seven league games due to a midwifery placement in Malta. The versatile Clann Eireann player scored six points in Armagh’s agonising defeat in the final and finished top of the Orchard charts for the league with 3-28, four points more than O’Hanlon with McKenna in third. Although only out of school last summer, McKenna has emerged as a significant force for Armagh and took over responsibility for the right-footed frees while McCleary was out of the country. She scored all but two points of Armagh’s 1-9 in the narrow win away to a Leitrim team which had that time four wins from four in 2013 and hit the net again the following week in the one-point victory over Tipperary. An exceptional prospect, the Armagh Harps youngster was recently crowned Armagh City and District Sportswoman of the Year and, like O’Hanlon and McCleary, she simply couldn’t have been left out of the Team of the League line-up. Few could have argued with the inclusion of another couple of Armagh players, or at the very least one representative of the tightest defence in the third division, but champions Down will also feel a bit hard done by.
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