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While Armagh Ladies begin their national league campaign away to Tyrone and Down Ladies welcome Sligo on Sunday, the domestic games are still going ahead with Saturday’s Armagh LGFA game between Armagh Harps and Shane O’Neill’s taking top billing.

Manager of Shane O’Neill’s Ladies is Whitecross man Seamus McParland, who also works as a financial advisor for Reavey Financial Services based in Newry.

Seamus McParland, Manager, Shane O'Neills. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
Seamus McParland, Manager, Shane O'Neills. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

The Newry.ie Sports Team caught up with the young manager as he hopes to guide Shanes to championship glory, but he also wants older players to be aware that GAA’s Sports Injury scheme doesn’t cover for loss of earnings anymore.

McParland took charge of Shanes at the start of last season, they had just been promoted, but in his first year the south Armagh team won the Division One title for their first ever time, which is remarkable, and he is targeting the bigger prize this season.

“To be promoted and then not knowing what was ahead of us and the girls just took it in their stride, and it was a great help to have all the county players all year, even in training. To have players like, Aimee and Blaithin Mackin, Moya Feehan, Louise Kenny, Aoibheann Jones drive the younger players on, is invaluable. We have players at 16 and 17 who are wonderful talents, and the future is bright in Shane O’Neill’s,” McParland said.

“So, our expectations this year is to go one step further and push for the senior championship.

“We just fell short last year to the eventual winners Armagh Harps in the semi-final, but we will learn from it and push for the big one this year. We will have to work that 20 percent harder than we did last year. There is no reason why we can’t aim for it and our sights are retaining our league title.”

Of course, you don’t mention Shane O’Neill’s girls without talking about the Mackin sisters. This year’s Ladies Player of the Year Aimee and All-Star Blaithin, and McParland can say enough good things about them, but insists he is proud of his entire squad.

“The Mackin sisters are Shane O’Neill’s through and through,” said Seamus.

Reavey Financial Services are sponsoring the match ball. Included from left are:  Louise Kenny, Captain and Anthony Reavey, Sponsor.
Reavey Financial Services are sponsoring the match ball. Included from left are: Louise Kenny, Captain and Anthony Reavey, Reavey Financial Services.

“In training anything you ask of Aimee and Blaithin, they will do it; they are incredible and stay after training to do their own runs, hitting frees and penalties. And people were rightly lauding Aimee’s goal against Dublin last year, but she is doing that in training week in, week out. 

“When you see at first hand there is not any other man or woman in the county can do the things she can with a football. It is an absolute pleasure to manage them.

“We have players who are not in the county who are well capable such as Louise Kenny, who is back from her cruciate injury and I would class Louise as one of best defenders in Armagh and an absolute warrior. And since taking over at Shanes for me there are 34 All-Stars.”

McParland started his managerial career with his home club St Killian’s Whitecross when he coached the 2016 Intermediate championship winning team, who were then managed by Noel Marron and John Shields. He said he was surprised by how much he enjoyed coaching and then he spent two years managing Lissummon, who he says is a great club, before taking over the role at Shane O’Neill’s.

“I took the call and met up with Peter Lynch, who is now the Down manager and I just picked it up from there,” McParland recalled.

“All in all, the committee has welcomed me, and the girls have welcomed me, and we have got on with it. We have one trophy in the bag in our first year and we want to start filling up a trophy cabinet.”

Armagh Harps were the only team to beat Shane O’Neill’s last season, so Saturday’s game should be interesting, Reavey Financial Services are sponsoring the match ball, but Anthony Reavey who runs the company wanted to highlight some of the pitfalls players across the county might not be aware of.

Louise Kenny, Captain, Shane O'Neill's.Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
Louise Kenny, Captain, Shane O'Neill's.Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

“This year the GAA’s Sports Injury scheme doesn’t cover you anymore for loss of earnings,” said Reavey.

“They will still pay out to pay towards an operation relating to your injury, but the loss of earnings is no longer covered.

So, you look at any of the teams playing, there are the younger players and then the older ones with families, children, mortgages and more outgoings and responsibilities, so if they get injured on the pitch and they are off work for six weeks the GAA will give them nothing.

“This is where we can step in. Men and women can continue to play football, or any sport for that matter, but not have to worry that they might end up in financial difficulty.”

Most players are not aware that they are no longer covered, and of course other sports may not provide any loss of earnings cover. You can call Anthony or Seamus on 02830262626 to find out more.

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