Fifth Defence of the Treble

August 9, 2011

The commencement of the 2011 Simply Fruit .com sponsored Armagh Senior Football Championship next weekend sees Crossmaglen Rangers embark on the defence of three titles for the fifth time in their history. Last March Rangers won their fifth All-Ireland club title as a follow up to their eighth Ulster title having won a national record 38th.  Armagh title in 2010. Only once at the turn of the century have Cross managed to retain all 3 titles but have completed the Armagh and Ulster double on 7 occasions.

Crossmaglen Rangers will begin the defence of their titles against Division Two league leaders Clann Eireann which is one of seven matches in the Senior championship which will be played next week. Ballymacnab have received a bye into the quarter finals as two of the top contenders for Rangers title meet as Dromintee take on Pearse Og (2009 champions) and St Patrick’s who ran Cross so close face a very tricky assignment against Whitecross.

The draw for the quarter finals of the Simply Junior football championship has been made and has thrown up the prospects of some very interesting matches. Dorsey Emmett’s, fresh from their win over Clady, face impressive first round winners Eire Og who beat Second Division Tullysarran.  St Pat’s Seconds, many people’s dark horses for the title face Dromintee Seconds. Wins over Killean and Killeavy Seconds have given Cross Seconds a tie with Corrinshego who were facile winners over a scoreless Phelim Brady’s in the last round. Following their superb 4-10 to 2-11 win over Lissummon Forkill will have to wait to know their last eight opponents as they play the winner of the Clonmore v Derrynoose game which has yet to be played as there was a delay in playing Clonmore’s first match in which they beat Annaghmore.

A couple of draws in the opening round of the Simply Intermediate championship might throw the fixture schedule into a little spin with the final down for decision on Oct 2 with the Junior the following week Oct 9 and the Senior on Oct 16

Reviews and previews of Armagh championship action can be found inside.

Carrickcruppen v Clan na Gael

The opening game in the Senior championship is a match-up between two teams who look as if they will be playing Second Division football next year given their current bottom two places in Division One, some 6 points away from the safety zone. In terms of this match it is Carrickcruppen who have received the psychological boost following their one point 1-12 to 0-14 win when the teams met over a week ago. Indeed Cruppen managed a couple of wins on the trot their first of the year in the run up to this match. The Lurgan side is in transition following the departure of several stalwarts and have not really gelled yet while their opponents have been hit with emigration but in recent weeks have welcomed back some key personnel from long term injuries. This distraction from league action will be welcomed by both who will be looking for a boost over the last half dozen survival games. Cruppen are gathering steam and can get to the next round with another narrow win.

Armagh Harps v Mullaghbawn

The drop in the stature of these teams in recent years can be gauged by the fact that they are also rans in the promotion race out of Division Two. Indeed a few more bad league results for Mullaghbawn could see them in a real tight relegation situation which makes the moral booster of a championship win all the more important for Peter McDonnell who has recently stepped into the breech as manager. Harps league campaign has been hampered without the services of their county men who will all be back in harness for this championship challenge. Finalists 2 years ago, Harps have failed to remain at that lofty height but still carry better armoury for scores than their opponents. Mullaghbawn will need McVerry, Quinn and Kelly in attack to be firing on all cylinders

in the scoring department if they are to book a place in the quarter-finals. Harps were 0-14 to 0-12 winners when the teams met early on in the league and are given the vote to advance to the next round.

Dromintee v Pearse Og

Before the draw was made Pearse Og and Dromintee were top of the pecking order when it came to teams capable of dethroning the champions. The fact that they face each other in the opening round is a big plus for Cross but a huge fence to jump for the respective teams. While Og’s have tasted championship success as recent as 2009 the stigma of being the best team not to land the title is attached to Dromintee who have lost 5 finals in the last decade. Dromintee’s Cathal O’Neill is ruled out injured while Og’s will be without talisman Ronan Clarke. Undoubtedly the tie of the round is a direct contrast in styles with Dromintee’s slow build up from the back as opposed to the swift moving of the ball by the Og’s. With the O’Rourke’s spearheading one team and the Clarke’s the other the ingredients of a thriller are in place, provided both turn up to play with full intensity as they are both prone to non-performances given their quality. Defensively over the years Dromintee have always been good but have been overly dependant on Cathal, Martin and Miceal for scores. Cathal has gone out of the equation and they have lost another contributor in Gaughran leaving the weight of expectation firmly on Miceal O ‘Rourke who has excelled all year both for club and county.

A high intensity game from Granemore 12 months ago brought an end to Og’s one year reign as champions and they can expect to face the same from Dromintee. Og’s are better equipped defensively and will contain the Dromintee forwards that bit better than their opposite numbers which will see them record a narrow victory but don’t be surprised if both survive to fight another day as there is little between the teams. The term “who wants it most” will not be lost in finding a winner.

Clann Eireann v Crossmaglen Rangers

A meeting of two teams of totally contrasting ambitions. Rangers are putting their three titles on the line whereas their Lurgan opponents need only 2 wins from their last 6 league games to achieve their ambition, a return to Division One football. So with nothing to lose the outsiders will be anxious to gauge their progress by having a real go at the champions in what will be a tougher task for the title holders than many would have expected when the draw was made last January. While Cross sit top of division one they have a large injury list topped by the loss of last year’s captain Paul McKeown with a fractured eye socket. Stephen Kernan and David McKenna are expected to play having missed a couple of matches which marked the return of veteran Oisin McConville who is looking as keen and as sharp as ever. Over the years Cross have survived by treating all opponents in the same manner whether it be a first or a last round clash hence their success. The champions will relish the testing examination from their opponents but will have too much in hand to slip, to what would be a massive upset.

Granemore v St. Michael’s

Such is the rising pedigree of Granemore over the last few years they have been tipped as potential champions in many quarters. With the likes of Toner, McClelland, O’Connor, O’Neill and the 4 Conroy’s on board there is no doubt that they have made significant progress but when up against the more seasoned their lack of experience and nous told against them. Now in their third year of ascendency their promising minors of a few years ago will be expected to deliver. An opening assignment against struggling Second Division St Michael’s is not the hardest ask for them. St Michael’s are in big danger of dropping to Division Three and will give their all against Granemore who beat them a year ago 1-9 to 1-5 but it will not be enough to see them through to the next round.

Maghery v Sarsfields

On current form Maghery are the favourites to get the dark horse tag as they have shown tremendous improvement since losing their opening two league games of the season. A recent win over Cross will not have done their confidence any harm either. Sarsfields are battling against relegation but to their credit have picked up wins over both Cross and Maghery which has kept their survival hopes very much on track. Two very attractive attacking sides on their day should produce a high scoring encounter with Maghery favourites to go through to the last eight. Maghery were semi-finalists but lost out to St. Pat’s mainly due to their Achilles Heel their indiscipline as they were forced to line out without two of the Forkers in that defeat due to suspension. Maghery to continue their good showing by advancing to the next round.

St. Patrick’s v Whitecross

On last year’s semi-finals showings against the champions, St Pat’s will be expected to repeat or go at least one better this time round. They could have asked for an easier start than taking on Whitecross who are never easily defeated. With Mal Mackin and Ciaran McKeever in sparkling form and the return of Robbie Tasker to attack the St Pat’s bandwagon is gathering momentum at the right time. Whitecross have blown hot and cold in the league but seem to have a mental block when up against the more high profile teams. The mental block is probably more to do with the fact that the bigger sides are better equipped to defensively deal with what is a lightweight Whitecross attack. If top marksmen Barry Og McKeown and Mark Shields are shackled the scores dry up. If Pat’s approach this with the wrong attitude they will be left with egg on their face as Whitecross will not be found wanting in the commitment or attitude stakes. Pat’s to reach the next round and leave them as a side to be avoided in the last eight.