Armagh GAA Round-Up

April 6, 2010

Armagh Boyle Transport leagues commence on Saturday

With Armagh playing in Donegal the eagerly awaited start to the Boyle Transport Armagh County League will be next Saturday April 10 with a 6.00pm throw-in.

The new league structure, which resulted in no teams getting relegated from last year, boasts 12 teams in each of the four divisions. Because established clubs such as Killeavy and St Patrick’s joined Crossmaglen in entering a seconds team (all three will operate in division four this year) it was the easiest and fairest solution to balance out the divisions as a 10 team first division did not work last year.

While the focus of attention will naturally fall on the newcomers and to see if they can get off to winning starts there will also be a lot of focus on how the promoted teams perform and also to see if the reprieved “relegated teams” can put in a better year second time round.

Division One

Maghery, Sarsfields, Pearse Og and Clan Na Gael are the only four non South Armagh teams in Division One which as one can imagine has a real derby feel to it with nearly every round of fixtures.

The spotlight will be on the defending champions Crossmaglen Rangers as the rest of the county wants to see how life without what many percieved as their inspiration on the playing field “the McEntee Twins” is going to pan out. The loss of the huge physical presence they brought to the team is one thing that will be missed but the champions have plenty of talent at their disposal and it will be interesting to see who will step up to the mark to get the Rangers show back on the road. Supplying their least amount of players to the County squad for a number of years should also help the Cross cause.The league champions begin at Mullaghbawn who had a testing time last year and face a daunting baptism to start with as both new management teams will be looking for a winning start.

County champions Pearse Og start with a home match against a Sarsfields team which did very well after a poor start last year. The big question is can the Og’s build on last year’s success and establish themselves as a real force. Dromintee, under Aidan O’Rourke, are being talked up to deliver at long last on years of promise but the departure of a chunk of their squad to county duty will detract from their league aspirations which have always been patchy over the years.  An opening trip to Culloville is a real test to begin with as the Blues will be looking to get off to a better start than last year even though they brought off the great escape in the end. Newly promoted Maghery will, fancy their chances away to Killeavy who had a very poor campaign last year. Interestingly both teams will be minus their scorers in chief in Stevie McDonnell and Stefan Forker so it allows someone else to take over the mantel. Killeavy have thinned their squad by putting in a second team and will be hoping for better fortune this time round.  St Patrick’s have also thinned their squad by entering a second team but they will suffer in the league minus Ciaran McKeever and Malachy Mackin. Winning your home matches is very important so Pat’s will be seeking a winning start at home to promoted Whitecross. Whitecross enjoyed good fortune in the top flight but then got relegated which was nearly followed by a further consecutive drop but they turned things round and will be hoping for a prolonged run. If they can reproduce their second division form they should find mid-table security not beyond them.

Last into action on Monday night are Clan Na Gael and Carrickcruppen . A shakey start to last year was put behind by both as they battled hard for their survival and pulled off some good results. to keep them in the division.  A good start breathes confidence and gives teams a lift. The funny thing about this division one is that 9 of the teams will fancy their chances against each other and will look at getting anything against Dromintee, Pearse Og and Crossmaglen as a bonus. Last year would have been a terrific division one without Cross as there was very little between second place and the team which finished bottom of the table. By the time May Day comes the extra games in this division, compared to last year, will have been played and it may be that that signal will be emulating from some camps especially if they cannot make “tosach maith leath na hoibre”.

Division 2

Intermediate champions St Michael’s got a reprieve from relegation and will be keen to get their campaign off to a better start than last.  Limited numbers plus a lot of injuries caused the early season problems and an opening away match with newly promoted St Peter’s is not the toughest of starts The Newtown boys will view this as a possible two pointer. Keady are the other promoted team and they take on Madden in their opener. Of the two promoted sides I expect Keady to feature at the business end of the table. Because of their senior championship exploits of last year the pressure is on Granemore to deliver promotion and they start at Clann Eireann and should figure in the shake up at the end of the year. Armagh Harps are another showing a lot of promise but no delivery. Harps begin with a home tie against a Ballyhegan side which could be in difficulty in this division. Ballymacnab could be the division’s surprise packet given the expected progress from their impressive county minors. Away to a Wolfe Tones side, expected to be featuring at the wrong end of the table, the “Nab need a good start to get momemtum going. Can Michael McConville do with Silverbridge what he has done elsewhere that is deliver the goods. The first instalment will be to make the most of the relegation reprieve by gaining a safe mid-table position in the league to relieve any hangover from last year. A tough start at home to Tir Na nOg on Sunday will soon see if the good work on the training ground will tell on the field of play.

Division 3

Forkhill will proudly welcome Lissummom to their field for their debut in the division. Lissummon had a terrible last campaign with the reshuffle saving their bacon. A losing start here will make it another struggle as their opponents will be hoping for an injury free run for their more prominent players to cement their place in the division early on. The second promoted side Eire Og face a tough baptism away to Shane O’Neill’s who are favoured to go up this year. If Belleek can cut out their inconsistancy they can be a force in this division. Always a handful for the best they seem to drop silly points which prove very costly, not an easy start away to Tullysarran. Relegation candidates all of last year An Port Mor and Annaghmore will both be seeking a winning start in an early indicator to see if there has been any improvement in fortunes. Two of the fancied sides for promotion meet as Middletown entertain St Paul’s with both expected to feature regardless of the opening result.

Division 4

All eyes will be on the newcomers with Killeavy drawing a tough opener away to Grange. The fourth division fixtures were altered to facilitate the home and away process for the three second teams with their firsts. St Patrick’s are away to Phelim Brady’s and their strength will be gauged as to how they get on against one of the division perennial strugglers. Crossmaglen Seconds are favourites for promotion having lost out last year and are away to Killean in the opener. The St Michael’s outfit are expected to be a lot stronger this time round in their second season but they have been given the toughest start.

Clady v Corrinshego is a meeting of two teams who showed at times last year that they were capable of much more than what was finally delivered. A year on it will be worth waiting to see if they can add consistancy to their bow and make a sustained bid for promotion. The exact same thing that applied to the previous two teams is a mirror image in the next matchup between Dorsey Emmett’s and Derrynoose where again potential is there but yet to be delivered upon. O’Hanlon’s are an improving young side who will have come on from last year. Anything other than a winning start at home to Mullabrack will be an early blow to confidence. Division four could turn out to be the most competitive of all the divisions in the battle for the title and promotion.