Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

‘T-Met’ Armagh Football Championships 2015

Real Challenge for Cross

Reigning County Champions Crossmaglen Rangers face their first real challenge in the 2015 championship as Maghery stand in their way for a place in the semi-final. The injury ravaged champions have not been very impressive in their 3 championship outings to date but still have accumulated 9-39 in their wins over Granemore, Killeavy and Pearse Og.

Maghery, for their part, have impressed hitting 5-40 in victories over Forkhill, Pearse Og and Granemore to the concession of 2-22.

The form line is similar in that both teams have beaten Granemore and Pearse Og at different stages of the championship with Maghery the more cohesive team unit in their overall performances. But as we know we are getting to the business end of the championship and traditionally the champions get stronger with every outing. This is the game where the Forker’s meet the Kernan’s and the respective performances from these family sets will have a big say in the final outcome.

Aidan Forker has been pulling the strings for Maghery all year, supplying quality ball to his forward line where Stefan, Seamus and Paul Forker have along with Stephen Cusack have been notching up the scores. The Rangers half-back line is led by Aaron Kernan who is still showing us that his county retirement is all too soon. The tactical take from both sets of management, as to what to do to curb these influential players, will be very interesting. How will the more physical Maghery go about handling their fleet footed less physical opponents will be vital, Rangers love a battle and very rarely get bullied.

With Maghery Captain James Lavery in fine form in the middle of the park, an area that is given the champions a bit of bother at present, especially mobility wise, this could be a key battle as he faces up to the challenge of Johnny Hanratty and David McKenna. Aidan Rushe is growing in stature in the full-back role for Cross and flanked by the two Pauls Hughes and McKeown the Maghery forwards will face their first real test of their true ability.

Although short in stature the Rangers forwards carry plenty of speed and a powerful scoring threat. Stephen and Tony Kernan, Mickey McNamee are all very experienced campaigners backed up by the two Kyles Carragher and Brennan and potential match winner John Murtagh.

The champions crown is under serious threat in this one if Maghery come to play ball instead of their pressing their usual self-destruct championship button when it comes to championship fare. Are Cross on the wane, as many people suspect or is it simply a case of them being able to step up a gear to dispose of the better challenges within the county.

This semi-final has all the ingredients to provide us with a cracking game and the possibility of a real upset. The champions have been here before with their backs to the wall and have responded. The availability of a better bench to select from could be the boost the champions need to survive a scare and show that those questioning that their hunger and desire for further glory is off the mark as they book their spot in the final.

Will Harps be nabbed?

Beaten finalists last year Armagh Harps will be looking to overcome the boys from out the road, Ballymacnab, to reach their second successive final. Harps began the campaign with a 1-15 to 2-8 win over Wolfe Tones. It was their second outing a drawn game with St Patrick’s that showed the Harps desire to go one better than last year as they clawed their way back to nab a replay with the last kick of the game. In the replay they made swift work of the Pat’s and then followed up with a 0-22 to 1-9 win over Killeavy in the quarter-final.

There is little doubt than since the second half introduction of Gareth Swift to full-forward for the Harps in that drawn game with the Pat’s, Harps have been a transformed side. With Decky McKenna and Charlie Vernon upping the ante and supplying Swift with quality ball Harps have improved with every outing.

Ballymacnab have probably being the least impressive of the four semi-finalists to date. The return of Rory Grugan, a late point matchwinner over Annaghmore in the quarter-final, will be a huge boost for them. Rory will join brother Jack, Gavin McParland, Ryan Kennedy, Joe Gribben, Kieran Hughes and veteran Brian McCone in a lively attack. Pauric and Richard Gribben form a useful midfield partnership but will be up against it taking on Vernon and McKenna. Defensively the Nab will be looking to give full-back Dominic McParland plenty of help to cut out the supply of ball to Swift. Skipper Michael Beagan or James Grey may be given the role to cut off the supply.

Without raising too many expectations the Nab have quietly come in under the radar and have the potential to give it a real go. This game is not a foregone conclusion as it also carries the derby feeling and no inferiority complex from the Nab in facing the Harps. Still, it will be a big shock if the Armagh city side do not make a swift return to the final but their shaky full-back line will be put through the mill by the Nab forwards and if that Swift threat is curbed the Nab could be back in the final they last graced in 2011.