Lucozade Sport Armagh Senior Football Championship Preview

September 21, 2010



On an evening not cut out for football due to the rain St Patrick’s, Cullyhanna qualified for a mouthwatering semi-final tilt with neighbours Crossmaglen Rangers following their goal defeat of Maghery. It was a Tony Donnelly goal inside the opening 10 minutes of the first half which separated the teams at the short and long whistle. The winners inspired by a super performance from Ciaran McKeever who also weighed in with 2 points led 1-6 to 0-6 at half-time.  As conditions worsened scores were at a premium in the second half with both sides mustering only 3 scores each.

St Pats dominated the opening quarter but thereafter it was Maghery who had the lions share of possession but could not turn it into scores with the absent Forkers sorely missed. Goalscorer Donnelly, full back Stephen Reel ,corner man Michael Murray, Malachy Mackin along with McKeever were best for the winners. James Lavery, Shay Tennyson, Niall Forker and Stevie Nugent were best for Maghery.


Granemore caused an upset when these teams met last year and will be hoping for a repeat at Crossmaglen on Sat at 5pm when they will once again go in as underdogs against Dromintee.Granemore transformed their season over the last two months reeling off a half dozen wins in league and championship to get back into the promotion race in division two and to Saturday’s semi-final. Injuries and immigration dominated their early season but the return from injury of former county man Tony McClelland sparked this team to life as they produced the form they showed in last years championship. A win over Intermediate champions St Michael’s in the first round was followed by League wins over Armagh Harps and Ballymacnab but the acid test for Granemore was a quarter final tilt with the defending champions Pearse Og. Granemore blew them away a lot more convincingly than the 0-9 to 0-5 final score suggests.

Granemore have a very solid spine down the centre of their team. While Tony McClelland Kieran Toner and Chrissy O Connor get the star billings they have a few more quality players who go about their business very effectively. Full back Darren Hughes and in front of him at number 6 Martin Murphy are very solid. The four Rafferty’s Shane, Caolan, Brendan and Ryan are tireless unselfish workers. Full forward Jason O Neill has shown time again that he can grab those match winning scores.

Dromintee have been a mixed bag all year showing the good and the bad yet are still comfortably through to the last four. Player manager Aidan O Rourke will be available for this one having sat out the flattering 2-12 to 0-11 quarter final win over second division champions Ballymacnab over a silly suspension handed down in his role as assistant to Kieran McGeeney at Kildare.  The biggest worry for Aidan will be to see if he has a fully fit complement of players to pick from for possibly the first time this year. Cathal Fegan, Barry Shannon and Kevin Dyas did not start the Nab match and will be a welcome addition for Saturday as Dromintee will need all hands on deck to face a boyant Granemore who have already dethroned the champions.Miceal O Rourke is in terrific form on the forty for Dromintee with brother Martin causing plenty of problems on the edge of the squire. The Kevi Fearon, Gareth O Neill midfield battle with Kieran Toner and Shane Rafferty could have a big bearing on how this one will go. Og’s were wiped out at midfield which cost them the match as Granemore were able to get good ball to O Neill and O Connor who will give Michael McGahon and Colm McGuinness a torrid time.

Dromintee have been knocking on the championship door for well over a decade, coming very close without gaining entry. With Og’s out of the way and Rangers seemingly not as formidable as before they must feel that they are in with a great shout this year.In Silverbeidge last year they never really showed when going down to Granemore. Dromintee have always had and still possess the talent and ability to beat the best but continually beat themselves with a negative mindset as they always seem to feel that everyone especially referees are all against them. If they play to their potential ,get on with the game, come with the right attitude to play football they would not be still waiting for a championship which should have nestled in their sideboard long before now. The sands of time wait for no one and one thing is for sure no one is going to hand you a championship no matter how you feel that you deserve one.Dromintee will have to learn from their past failings otherwise they will once again come up short. It will be interesting to see how Dromintee will cope with the power of Toner and McClelland which will be key to their success. The win over the Og’s for Granemore was a little flattering as the champions were very poor on the night. Dromintee will cause them a lot more problems particulary in the full forward and half back lines which will set them on their way to their fifth final since 2001

Crossmaglen Rangers v St Patrick’s

The second semi-final will take place at 5pm on Sunday at Silverbridge with title favourites Crossmaglen Rangers taking on near neighbours St Patrick’s, Cullyhanna.. Former kingpins Cross underwent major surgery this year following retirements after their fabulous unbeaten run in this competition was ended by Pearse Og in the County Final. New management, new shape, new style of play nothing new in that they have kept on their winning ways. The league title has been retained in emphatic style and now they are only one hurdle away from a place in the final.

Rangers have adapted well to the loss of one of their major attributes during those all conquering years-their physicality-by changing their style of play with quick ball delivered at all times to their forwards who still possess that match winning formula of score getting.Survivors from 1996 Paul Hearty, Francie Bellew and Oisin McConville may be the most experienced of all but still have plenty to offer to a side where the majority despite their youthful years have been performing at the highest level and are not lacking in experience.  The four Kernan brothers Aaron, Paul, Stephen and Tony, Paul McKeown, Mickey McNamee, Martin Aherne and Johnny Hanratty are all already established household names. Jamie Clarke, James Morgan, Aaron Cunningham, Danny O Callaghan, Francis Hanratty have already carved their own niches as the relative newcomers.

After a poor start to the league St Pat’s turned their year round in style to move up to a very comfortable fourth spot on the league ladder. The form of their defence has been terrific with Michael Murray, Stephen Reel and Brendan Savage performing well in front of goalkeeper Conor O Neill. Paudie McCreeshe flanked by scoring half backs Eoin McArdle and Niall McShane have been in sparkling form.  The teams inspiration Ciaran McKeever in superb form both defensively and offensively. Barry McConville and Malachy Mackin are quite a formidable midfield pairing Shane McKeever, Eugene Casey, Tony Donnelly and Robbie Tasker are the forwards who carry the most threat.

Rangers won the league encounters between the teams 3-11 to 1-10 but it will have no baring on Sunday as entirely different starting 15’s will be in action. A feature of Rangers performances has been their inability to get their fair share of midfield possession. Cross have been wiped out at times in this sector in their previous round wins over Carrickcruppen and Armagh Harps. The return after injury of David McKenna will be of great benefit to Cross as they combat the aerial ability of Mackin and McConville.  At midfield.

Cross will have to be fully fired up for this one as Pat’s will eye this as their best ever opportunity to put one over on their neighbours. This will come down to the main difference between the teams Rangers better ability to knock off the scores even on limited possession. St Pat’s will need to be firing on all cylinders in attack if they are to breech the full back line of Morgan, Kernan and team captain mckesson whereas at the other end the evergreen McConville and Jamie Clarke always carry that goal threat. The Tony Donnelly -Paul Kernan tussle will be very interesting as will how Cross will try to curb the considerable influence Ciaran McKeever has been exercising in recent matches.  If the weather holds good we could be treated to a very good match which this championship badly needs. Cross to advance to the final after negotiating some hairy moments from a Pat’s side that has potential but lack a little belief and cutting edge up front.