Another derby hurdle for Ballymacnab
Armagh Senior Championship Semi-Finals Sat Oct 5 @5pm Athletic Grounds: Ballymacnab v Granemore
If Ballymacnab are to qualify for successive County Finals, they will have to overcome near neighbours and arch rivals Granemore. Essentially this will be the biggest and ultimate derby test that they will face in this year’s Championship following last round wins over both of their Armagh City rivals, Harps and Pearse Og.
Having finished off their Group 1 Championship campaign with their only loss 3-15 to 2-12 away to Crossmaglen Rangers having had wins over Sarsfields 2-17 to 2-8 and Clann Eireann 5-20 to 0-10 the ‘Nab eked out a one-point Championship victory over Armagh Harps at Pearse Og Park 1-10 to 0-12 to reach the quarter finals. A week later the Round Towers put in a storming second half to see off Pearse Og 2-12 to 0-10 at the Athletic Grounds to set up a semi-final meeting with parish neighbours Granemore.
Granemore for their part topped Group 2 following up their win over Harps 0-15 to 1-11 by beating Silverbridge by a point 1-12 to 0-14 and St Peter’s 1-9 to 0-7 to reach the quarter finals where they took on Madden. Three unanswered points in the final minutes against Madden to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat gave Granemore a hat-trick of one-point championship wins as they booked a last 4 berth for the first time in 8 years.
Ballymacnab will be strong favourites to advance to the final on Saturday evening, but their rivals, whose never say die attitude has stood them in good stead thus far in the Championship will be even more determined to upset the odds.
The midfield battle between Pauric Gribben and his Granemore counterpart Tony McClelland will be an interesting affair as Tony was a major driving force in the last comeback win. Also to the fore in the win over Madden was the fact that despite not at their best Granemore managed to get 7 different players Liam Doyle (0-3), Jason O’Neill (0-3), Tony McClelland (0-2), Cathal O’Hare (0-1), Louis Hughes (0-1) and of course eventual match winner super sub Ciaran Boyd (0-1).on the scoresheet.
Last year’s County final top scorer with 1-6 Jack Grugan has once again been to the forefront for his club (yet devoid of county action) with his 1-4 against the Og’s the key to their victory. Gavin McParland, Ryan Kennedy, Oisin McGivern and Sean Lynch have also shown well for the Round Towers who could also welcome back their injured skipper Michael Beagan for Saturdays derby.
Slow starts have been a feature of late from the ‘Nab which has made life difficult for them and the last thing they will need is to give Granemore a foothold in the game early on as the likes of Liam Doyle and Jason O’Neill are well adept at scoring.
Ballymacnab have the better scoring firepower and a better goal scoring threat which should be good enough to overcome what will be their toughest hurdle to date in their quest for Senior Championship glory.
Saturday 5th October @ 7pm Athletic Grounds: CROSSMAGLEN RANGERS v MAGHERY
The defending champions 2019 Championship passage to date has all been a little pedestrian and predictable as Cross Rangers topped Group 1 with 3 wins Clann Eireann 3-18 to 0-9, Sarsfields 2-18 to 3-11and Ballymacnab 3-15 to 2-12. A local derby quarter final against near neighbours Silverbridge never got off the ground as Cross advanced 1-15 to 0-7. The worry for opponents is that the injury ravaged champions are now near back to full strength with their own management team worried about the big leads they flittered away against both Sarsfields and Ballymacnab. 9 different scorers;
Rian O’Neill (0-5), Colin O’Connor (1-0), Oisin O’Neill (0-2), Aaron Kernan (0-2), Stephen Morris (0-2), Cian McConville (0-1), Johnny McKeever (0-1), Mel Boyce (0-1), Alan Farrelly (0-1) the last day out on a team that showed a half dozen changes from the one that started last year’s County Final sends a clear message the Cross are still the team to beat.
Maghery suffered an opening shock to their Group 3 campaign losing out 1-9 to 0-6 at Madden before recovery wins against Annaghmore 0-12 to 0-8 and then Dromintee 4-11 to 0-8 enabled them to top the group on scoring difference to reach the quarter finals. A Monday night Athletic Grounds showdown with St Pat’s, Cullyhanna was their reward with a last-minute Brian Fox goal giving the Loughshoremen a 2-9 to 1-9 passage to the semi-final having led 1-5 to 1-4 after Brian McIllmurray on 14 minutes for the winners and Kieran Hoey had traded first half goals.
Despite still having quality players to call upon Maghery have never really pushed on since their inaugural Senior Championship victory in 2016. The following year despite two Championship wins over Saturday’s opponents, Cross 3-7 to 1-8 in round one then a 2-13 to 0-16 semi-final win, Maghery lost the final to Armagh Harps 2-9 to 0-11. Now under the guidance of former Armagh star Finnian Moriarty they hope to embrace further Championship glory and why not with players of the caliber of the Forker brothers Stefan and Aidan, Ben Crealey, Stephen Cusack, Ciaran Higgins, Ronan Lappin and Brian McIllmurray.
The respective match ups by both sets of managers will be interesting in this one. How will Cross full back Rico Kelly handle McIllmurray, who will Maghery deploy to try and shackle the O Neill brothers. How will Cross cope with their more physical opponents who have currently adopted a more defensive style of football. With Rangers having so many different points of attack and score takers containment might not be the best option.
Both teams will know that they will have to show a big improvement on current form if they are to secure a place in the final. As is always in a meeting between these two teams the D word (discipline) could play a leading role. I expect this semi to be a cracking contest with little between the teams at the finish. Cross with the help of better bench options to earn a place in the Oct 20 final following a terrific battle that will go right to the wire.
Intermediate Football Final
Shane’s in with a big chance
When Shane O’Neill’s lost the second successive group game to Grange 1-12 to 1-10, having won their opening championship match, a place in Sunday’s final looked out of the question. Their plight was worsened by the resignation of their team manager as they faced into the qualifiers. Chairman Mick Mackin enlisted the help of the ladies management duo of Cathal Quinn and Stephen Mooney and together the trio have guided their club to one game from ultimate glory.
Underdogs, as they take on a Grange outfit that have taken care of both championship favourites Mullaghbawn and Clan Na Gael in Sunday’s decider, Shane’s will not be phased by this given the obstacles that they have overcome to get there. On their day the McCabes and Mackin’s have proven that they are more than capable match winners. Having won 3 on the bounce against Keady, St Paul’s and Wolfe Tones, the management trio are riding high as is their team and out of nowhere they now have a shot to nothing to bring home the bacon.
Whilst Grange look to have the power up front to do damage Shanes’ have garnered a willingness and fighting spirit within their camp that will be hard to curtail if the Colmcilles are not up to scratch. The formbook points towards a Grange success and their first Intermediate title since 1993 but Shane’s are more than capable of upsetting the odds and landing a maiden title.