Armagh Championship Fare Begins

May 4, 2015

It may only be the second weekend of May but in a new venture the TMET Armagh Senior, Intermediate and Junior Championship action commences. With Armagh Seniors not in Ulster championship action until June 14 when they will take on the winner of the Preliminary Round game of May 17 between Donegal v Tyrone, it was only fitting to slot in the opening rounds of the championships especially given that they are no longer straight knock-out competitions. Clubs though may view this differently as they have only had less than a handful of league games under their belts and a few of those minus their County players.

The perennial question come championship is, as usual, can anybody stop Crossmaglen Rangers in the Senior and can we see a new name on the Intermediate and Junior, plus how will the upgraded and downgraded teams perform in their new surroundings. For a few clubs there will be a long 5-6 months of championship action which could be prolonged by County success, for others it could be a short shift despite all their training and preparation and getting two bites at the cherry. The difference this year will be that all teams will survive in the championship for 3 months as the first round of qualifiers are not scheduled until August. The downside of that long break could be the American lure for student club members, which could affect their championship preparations big time.

Senior Championship

Annaghmore v Tir Na Nog

It will be Senior championship lightweights Annaghmore and Tir Na Nog who will have the privilege of firing the opening salvo as the 2015 TMET sponsored competition gets underway at Maghery on Friday night. Tir Na Nog are pointless and bottom of the table following four successive defeats at the hands of St Patrick’s, Pearse Og, Forkhill and Maghery whilst their opponents have picked up 3 points following a win at Killeavy and a draw at St Paul’s following a home defeat at the hands of Sarsfields and a loss at Wolfe Tone. This will be a tight low scoring encounter that could end all square.

Sarsfields v Pearse Og

Patrons at this one in the Athletic Grounds will be hoping that they can produce a high scoring encounter like their league meeting a fortnight ago which the Og’s won 3-13 to 1-14. This is the pick of the opening round of fixtures as both play good attacking football and the open spaces of the venue will contribute to their style of play. Og’s are not as strong as they used to be a few years ago whilst Sarsfields with a full complement at their disposal are a good side. Will go for the upset here by giving Sarsfields the nod but either team especially the victor will be a different proposition in the next round.

Carrickcruppen v Killeavy

The South Armagh derby game has lost a bit of its sparkle now that Down great Mickey Linden will not be in the opposite corner to take on Benny Coulter and Daniel Hughes. Winless after three league games, Killeavy and Linden parted company with Armagh legend and home grown product, Stevie McDonnell taking over the reins but he could not prevent a fourth straight loss. ’Cruppen lost three tough openers to Cross, Maghery and Harps but got a pre-championship boost by beating Dromintee 2-10 to 1-10. The opening match of a Saturday’s double header at Crossmaglen can see ’Cruppen pile more misery on Killeavy by claiming victory.

Dromintee v Ballymacnab

Unbeaten Ballymacnab with 3 league wins and a draw under their belts take on a young inexperienced Dromintee side that began with a very good away win at Granemore 1-16 to 1-12 but then lost 3 on the bounce. Two of those defeats were to Cross and Harps with ’Cruppen being the third. Ballymacnab score goals (11 in 4 games) and that should give them the edge over a team that will be a much tougher proposition by the end of the league and the next round of the championship.

Armagh Harps v Wolfe Tone

Last year’s beaten finalists Armagh Harps have enjoyed an unbeaten start to the league. The joint table toppers face Wolfe Tone who have a 50% record on their return to Division One. It may be early season but the Harps look in tune and Tones will be the first hurdle they clear as they try to go a step further than 12 months ago.

Maghery v Forkhill

Minnows Forkhill might have wished for an easier Senior championship bow than tacking on Maghery who are most people’s outside fancy each year. Forkhill have already sprung a couple of surprises in the league and the postponement of their league meeting with Cross could be a blessing in disguise with regards to the mindset going into this historic occasion for the club. Maghery even without their county men have made it 4 wins from 4 in the league and can continue with win number 5 in this novel contest.

St. Patrick’s v St Paul’s

Intermediate champions St Paul’s have found the step up difficult to date picking up just one point an opening day home draw with Annaghmore. Most worrying for St Paul’s will be their most recent result a 2-16 to 0-7 loss at Wolfe Tone. St Pat’s after two opening victories have lost two on the bounce to Ballymacnab and Harps. A full strength fully committed St Pat’s for the year have the capability of giving the championship a real go as they did a few seasons ago. They can get the boost they need to head down that path with an opening round victory.

Granemore v Crossmaglen Rangers

Granemore are the ones who drew the short straw by getting the champions in the opening round.  It is always said that the opening match is the one where champions are vulnerable so Granemore can find solace with that assumption but for me it does not apply. Rangers are not as formidable as they were and are in the re-building process if they are to get back to scale the dizzy heights that they have been accustomed to. Cross hold all the aces as far as Armagh is concerned and Granemore will fall short of claiming a famous victory.

Intermediate Championship

Grange v Collegeland

A full strength Grange outfit should prove too strong for a Collegeland side that have struggled thus far in the league.

Dorsey Emmet’s v Whitecross

Whitecross  are flying following three successive wins  whilst Dorsey are struggling following 3 successive defeats.  The form book may be scant but it will be followed as Whitecross go down the winner’s route.

Shane O Neills v Clan na Gael

Shane’s got a wakeup call with a walloping at Clann Eireann 2-17 to 0-4 to emphatically win the top of the table clash after both sides won their opening three games. Clan Na Gael are struggling with only a win over Collegeland thus far to their credit. The Camlough boys to answer the wakeup call by bouncing back with a victory.

Mullaghbawn v An Port Mor

An Port Mor have 7 points from their 4 games played, a dropped point to lowly Collegeland their only blemish. Mullaghbawn began with the local derby win over Silverbridge and following defeats to Shanes and Culloville, tuned up for the championship with a 2-17 to 2-11 win against Eire Og.  A tasty encounter looks in prospect between two evenly matched teams. If Mullaghbawn can improve defensively they possess the firepower up front to be a real championship force. Victory or defeat for either will not dim their championship aspirations but to pick a winner I go for Mullaghbawn.

Culloville v St Peter’s

Culloville and St Peter’s will have visions of a prolonged championship run and their indifferent league form (both have 50% win records) will not faze either at this stage. Of the two at present Peter’s have the edge and are taken to go down the winner’s route but the Blues will not have gone away.

Clann Eireann v Madden

9-61 Scored in four games shows the form table toppers Clann Eireann are in at present. They will not get it all their own way against championship battlers Madden whose only loss was a one point defeat at Eire Og.  With only current form to go on Clann Eireann to continue to fly high with a fifth successive win.

Junior Championship

Clonmore v Clady

The meeting of two teams from different Junior league sections makes it difficult to get a form guide. Junior A is deemed to be stronger than the B section. Clady from the lower section have won two and drawn one of their games to date.  Clonmore have won two and lost two. I will go for a Clonmore win as they nearly always produce it come championship.