'She’d be in for two hours doing rehab' - Armagh star marvels at Player-of-the-Year-winning sister

Bláithín Mackin says the family was very proud of her sister, and team-mate, Aimee.

ARMAGH ALL-STAR Bláithín Mackin has expressed her pride in her sister, Aimee, who captured the senior Player of the Year award in 2020 after recovering from the an ACL injury.

tg4-all-ireland-ladies-football-championships-launch-2021 Armagh defender Bláithín Mackin. Source: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE

The ace forward suffered the dreaded knee ligament tear in the summer of 2019 but stormed back to life the following year to help her side reach the All-Ireland semi-finals.

After an exceptional campaign, the older Mackin sister captured the top individual gong at the age of just 23, the ultimate reward after an extensive journey to recovery.

“We’re all so proud of her,” says Bláithín Mackin about her sibling’s achievement, “we watched what she done in the gym during the lockdown. We were sitting in the kitchen and saying is she not back in yet, she’d be in there for two hours doing rehab.

“It was long gym sessions. Watching her go through that slow process to have the comeback she did, it was class. She was back in Ulster, we’d have seen her in the club games, breaking herself in and all the hard work that went into it.

“She did get back to such a high level so quickly and reach that goal.”

Armagh will get their All-Ireland championship campaign underway this weekend, but will have to wait until later in the year to complete their Ulster competition.

Mackin admits that it is “strange” that there is no fixed date set for their Ulster final against Donegal, but stresses that it is a scenario that her side can draw positives from.

Armagh, who are the reigning title holders, booked their place in the decider after victory over Tyrone having previously defeated Monaghan in the provincial opener.

Similar to last year, the provincial councils had the option of running their competitions in 2021 with Ulster proving to be the only one to run their own tournament.

However, due to the Covid-enforced format of the 2021 championship, the two finalists must now turn their attention to the All-Ireland series which starts this weekend. Armagh, who are in Group 1, will get their campaign underway against Monaghan and will also have ties to face against Cavan and Mayo later this month.

Armagh experienced a similar route to the final last year, contesting for the silverware against Monaghan after bowing out to Dublin in the All-Ireland semi-final a few weeks earlier.

“It is a big strange,” Mackin responds when asked about her thoughts on qualifying for an Ulster final with no date set in stone.

“Last year it was the same and it worked out perfectly because we ended up winning. After the game against Dublin that’s normally you done for the season and it’s a lull but we ended up winning and got to finish the year on a high. It will be a lot different when we get the All-Ireland done and then switching your mindset back to a final.

“I think it will stand by us. Championship football is like no other. Having the two games will stand to us and we’ll be glad to get that sort of warm-up.”

Speaking further about that five-point defeat to Dublin last November, Mackin adds:

blaithin-mackin-tackled-by-carla-rowe-and-niamh-mcevoy Bláithín Mackin in action against Dublin last year. Source: Lorraine O’Sullivan/INPHO

“That game, Dublin were probably better on the day and took their chances far better than we did, we got back into it well. We’ve a lot to learn from that, we were glad to get that far but we were lucky we got to play Dublin, we needed to get that far to see where we were against the top teams.

“It was an eye-opener that we’re not that far away. Minor things are the difference. Dublin are an unbelievable team, they minimise their own mistakes and that was our fault.

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“We were making too many mistakes, unforced errors, but those are small things we can change. We’re glad to see the gap that small and obviously we want to make it even tighter this year if we get the chance.”

Armagh will face similar opposition in their championship outings this year, having already clashed with Cavan and Monaghan during the league.

The Orchard county lost both of those fixtures by a single point before avenging for the Monaghan defeat when the sides met again in the Ulster championship.

“For us it’s a familiar group, our third time playing Monaghan in a month or six weeks,” Mackin notes.

“It’ll be a tough game and Cavan the same, we played them in the league. All very tough, with Mayo in our last game, we’ll be expecting three tough matches in the next three weeks.

“We’ll have less recovery time but as long as everyone stays fit and doesn’t pick up too many injuries, hopefully we’ll be alright. This is what we did when we were younger. As long as there’s no major injuries hopefully it’ll be enough, experience only makes you better.

“We’d a tough league campaign which wasn’t enjoyable but we were happier to have the two games under our belt in the Ulster championship and we needed those two games to get our groove back, we lost it in the first three games in the league.”

Bláithín Mackin was on hand to mark the launch of the 2021 TG4 All-Ireland Championships.

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