What new name will be on the Gerry Fegan Cup?

October 10, 2016

SFC final St Patricks, Cullyhanna v Maghery

Come Sunday evening there will be a new name on the Gerry Fegan Cup (barring a draw) as St Patrick’s, Cullyhanna and Maghery will have done battle in a novel new pairing in the Armagh Senior Football final.

St Pat’s, fresh from their dramatic dismissal of reigning Ulster and Armagh Champions Crossmaglen Rangers in the semi-final, will be appearing in their second final. In their last appearance in 2013 the  Cullyhanna boys were up short 0-17 to 0-8 to Crossmaglen Rangers.

Maghery, who were 2-17 to 1-9 semi-final winners, over Clann Eireann, were bridging a 23 year gap since their last final appearance, Sunday will be the Lough Shore men’s fifth final appearance, having suffered defeats in 1993 to Clan na Gael 2-15 to 1-6, 1991 to Armagh Harps 0-11 to 1-7, 1983 to Crossmaglen Rangers 2-9 to 1-6 and 40 years ago 1976 to Clan na Gael 1-8 to 0-7 in their first final.

The return from injury of Aidan Nugent and County man Michael Murray were key in the win over the Rangers. Nugent, who picked up the Man of the Match award, contributed 10 points (8 frees) to the Pat’s tally 1-15 whilst Murray, like all the Cullyhanna players on the night, actually believed that they could topple the champions and battled right to the end and were rewarded at the death with Mal Mackin’s winning goal.

With the League title safely tucked away, Pat’s will be seeking an unprecedented double yet they are seen as the outsiders in the betting such has been the championship form of Maghery.

Maghery began their campaign with a 0-12 to 0-7 win over Wolfe Tones and followed up with a 1-15 to 0-9 win over Annaghmore.  Their quarter final was against Dromintee 1-15 to 2-5 and a semi-final 2-17 to 1-9 win over Clann Eireann.

St Pat’s opened their championship account with a 2-10 to 1-5 dismissal of Pearse Og’s followed up with a 1-15 to 1-9 win over Sarsfields.  The quarter-final saw them account for Wolfe Tones 1-13 to 1-7 and a then sensational 1-15 to 0-17 win over champions Cross.

Under manager Shane McConville, Maghery seem to be a more disciplined well drilled outfit, playing to their strengths, their attacking ability in particular.  Team Captain James Lavery has led by example with the former county man in the form of his life at midfield, sharing his lead in the middle is teenager Ben Crealey who has been a revelation this year and a major find.

Another plus for Maghery is that the Forker brothers, Aidan and Stephen, have been given great assistance by Stephen Cusack, Conor Mackle and Shay Tennyson in sharing the scoring load which has been quiet substantial of late.

If one looks at Maghery’s previous final appearances it is obvious that ‘scores on the doors’ was their main reason for failure.

St Pat’s, under Monaghan stalwart Mick O’Dowd, the south Armagh side have found a new confidence and belief as verified by their 5 point deficit against the champions turned into victory. Pearse Casey operated at midfield in the semi-final and Mickey Murray occupied an attacking role so it will be interesting to see if they will be used in a similar role on Sunday. Goalkeeper James Carragher was a rather unsung hero of the last win as his terrific goal save from Rian O’Neill kept it at a 2 point game when it mattered most.

The defensive sextet of the Pat’s Stephen Reel, Sean Connell, Conor Connolly, Francie O’Rourke, Gary and Kieran McCooey, despite the concession of some soft frees performed well, as a unit limiting Rangers to that one late goal opportunity.

Whilst the midfield battle will gain all the attention for me the key on Sunday will be which attacking sextet performs the best. Pat’s have a bonus with the availability of Nugent but the Casey’s, Eugene and Pearse, veteran hero of the last day, Malachy Mackin, and talented youngster Jason Duffy and Shea Hoey will all need to keep the scorekeeper working if they are to win.

Maghery have a more naturally gifted scoring forward line with the Forker brothers Aidan, Stefan and scoring substitute Seamus, Stephen Cusack, Conor Mackle and Shea Tennyson all able to keep the scoreboard ticking over.

The north Armagh versus south Armagh contest has all the ingredients of being a classic with so much on the line – a historic first title for either club. Discipline could be the key and decisive issue at the end of the day as both sides have players Forker and Nugent to point their side to victory from placed balls but it’s the holding of the head and finishing the game with a full compliment is what I am talking about with the Lough Shore men, in particular, paying a heavy price in the past because of such indiscretions.

The call of a winner is literally a toss of the coin as the desire and commitment from both should be equal. I believe that there is only a kick of the ball between them on current form as their form guide result, having both played Wolfe Tones to get to the final, also bares out.

Sunday will be an even more historic day for the Pat’s as their second team will play before them in the replayed Junior Championship final against Clonmore (@ 2pm) after they drew 1-9 to 0-12 with another late goal securing the replay. What odds St Pat’s in line for a third Sunday in a row in Championship final action with Sunday also ending in stalemate in even more pulsating fashion.


Armagh Senior Football C’ship Final

Sun, 16 Oct, Venue: Athletic Grounds, (Final), Maghery Sean McDermotts V St Patrick’s Cullyhanna 15:30, Ref: Padraig Hughes

Junior Football Championship Final

Sunday 16th October: Athletic Grounds at 2pm

St Patrick’s, Cullyhanna v Clonmore.