Michelle McArdle leads Armagh in the fight for all-Ireland camouflage fun to inspire her kids.

One notable aspect of the recent growing attention to women’s sports is the attention that has been given to mothers who do not end their careers with a child and the resulting parental responsibility.

One of the persistent prejudices in society, especially in the workplace, is that motherhood is a kind of time bomb that can explode at any moment and destroy everything, and that women are unreliable as a result.

In elite sport, this was seen as “the end”, with a few exceptions. Returns are now commonplace. Think Olympic gold medalist Helen Glover, Champions League winner Sarah Björk Gunnarsdottir, tennis legend Serena Williams and just last weekend the inspiring Lao All-Ireland Women’s Football Champion Aisling Donoher.

Armagh has her own gorgeous moms as they head to tonight’s All-Ireland Premier Junior Camogie final in Ulster Glen Dimplex against Antrim, Captain Michelle McArdle, who has three kids, and Jennifer Currie, a mother of two.

McArdle shares captaincy with Gemma McCann and manager Jim McKernan says he has made an immediate decision on ace Ballymacnab.

“When I first met the band in January, you listened to them first and foremost,” McKernan said. “Passion shone at this meeting.

“Shelly came to the meeting in the middle of the week with her three children. I’d look around to see who the leaders are and just say, ‘Here she is’ and I’ve never met this girl before.”

McArdle has many motives, but the most important is the example she wants to set for her children Jody (age 9), Jamie (who had a big fifth birthday party this week) and Chloe (age 4).

Jodie, in particular, is now into camogie, having been seconded as a cheerleader, bottle-carrier, bus-riding to games, and soaking up the smells and sounds of the locker room. Today she had to be a little disappointed, but not for long if the result is right.

“She was at all of our games,” says McArdle. “She sits next to me in the locker room and in our bus. This week I have to break her heart and say, “No, not this time.” She may come, maybe after, but not before.

“This is where she wants to be and what she aspires to be. She will enjoy the day. Now she looks at all of us and dreams of playing in Croke Park. Those were my dreams and being able to make those dreams come true is brilliant.

“That’s what I play for. I am a single mother. This is what I do everything for. I want them to play sports. Sport gives me so much. The support the girls give me, they are like sisters to me. This is a big family.

“Without that support, for mental health and everything else, it’s unbelievable what he’s doing for you. Anyway, for me. For a long time. That tiny hour back and forth — from everything in life, exams, kids, everything you have going on in your life — this hour is just incredible, a big help.”

That’s why she doesn’t approve of removing Arma from her schedule, even though being a single mother of three underage kids is tough. She would like to work more – again for the sake of the mind, but also financially – but Jamie will start school soon, and Chloe will have another 12 months. In the meantime, she needs to be at home more.

Like Antrim’s co-captain Emma Laverty, who left the Safrons interim group last year due to work pressure and watched them go all the way, McArdle was a gutted witness when Armagh won the 2020 major junior title. . FOMO is second only to the mental, social and health benefits of participation, but it’s a factor.

“The year the girls won, I wasn’t there because of family obligations and stuff. I welcomed their return home. I cried with jealousy. It was just desperation. I said to myself, “I won’t be there again.” You want to be in the colors of your district and you want to be there on the Last Day.”

The very strong Wexford beat them last year by three points in the All-Ireland final, but the addition of Curry to the ranks has greatly increased Armagh’s firepower.

The Middletown striker turns 39 in October and hadn’t played inter-county camogie for eight years before deciding to accept an invitation to join the Orchards, but he’s no ordinary player.

Despite missing two All-Irelands in Australia where she met Armagh’s man and future husband Paul, Curry won four senior titles with Cork and eight All-Stars, scoring a goal that sparked a phenomenal Rebels comeback against Kilkenny in her last game deciding 2014.

At that time she was known to everyone as O’Leary, although she had been married for two months. Since then, the family has two children. But Curry felt she still had a lot to offer and worked hard to get in shape. Her 1–3 score in the second half was decisive as Arma made up a three-point deficit in the last quarter of their semi-final against Kavanagh.

“When a caliber like Jen comes up to you, it lifts your spirits. She’s a great team player, she cooks up a lot of things for the girls, but she always takes some pressure off the likes of Ciara Donnelly and the girls who always have to score. She says that all of our forwards are now on top and score in every game. Our front line was huge and we hope they will provide the goods.”

If they do, McArdle will be able to lift the Kathleen Mills Cup with McCann.

“Getting the captain was incredible. I could not believe it. If we could do that, that would just be the end for me now,” she added.