Donnelly Group Football Championship
● INTERMEDIATE FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL
Derby final adds extra pressure
As if playing in a championship final does not bring its own pressure the fact that two neighboring south Armagh teams, Silverbridge Harps and Killeavy adds that extra pressure to the occasion. Whilst Silverbridge are seeking a league and championship double, opponents Killeavy, by virtue of this, are guaranteed Senior football regardless of the final outcome. Killeavy who had finished as runner-up to the Bridge in the league and will be seeking their third title at this grade (2012 &1986) in this their fifth final whereas Silverbridge have a 100% record ,winning their only other previous final appearance back in 1972.
A feature of the two finalists is that both have a relatively young team brimming with former Armagh minor and U-21 players and of course Seniors in both camps with Ciaron O’Hanlon and Jarly Og Burns,
Indeed it is O’Hanlon’s positioning at number 6 which has raised a few eyebrows through his impressive championship performances in which he combined his defensive duties with surging attacking forages in which he either scored or set up scores from his teammates. Caolan McConville, Conor O’Neill, Cathal Boylan, Niall Magennis, Miceal McNamee have been very prominent for Killeavy in this championship run.
Silverbridge have been in cruise control throughout the championship knocking up 4 convincing victories on their way to the decider. Gary Reel, Cathal Lambe, Aaron Duffy and Paddy Reel have been defensively sound for the bridge with Joe Rock, Ronan Reel and Pauric Keating very lively in attack.
The Bridge march to the final has a very influential and strong springboard from the midfield pairing of Peter Carragher and Jarly Og Burns but with James Donnelly leading the charge in this midfield sector for Killeavy we are in for a battle royal in between the two forties. The two elder statesmen on either side will have key roles to play and both operate with number 14 on their back. Damien McCann orchestrates the Bridge attack with Raymie Teggart the ‘go to’ man for the men in green and black.
Whilst the two finalists franked the league form book by making it this far they both were far from fluent in their semi-final victories. Killeavy allowed St Paul’s back into a game in which they should have been dead and buried with the Bridge keeping Forkhill in the game with a lack of scores. Still, the bottom line for semi-finals is that they must be won regardless about performances.
Verdict- Unquestionably the best two teams have reached the final playing contrasting styles of good football. The league champions like to attack with pace whereas Killeavy like to build from the back and counter attack with purpose. I think that this has all the ingredients to produce a terrific final which will go right down to the wire with only a kick of the ball between them. If I was having a bet I would back, the draw, but pushed for a winner, despite the weight of history on their back I give the nod for the blue and gold to bridge a 45 year gap.
● SENIOR FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL
Maghery to retain their title
Twelve months ago Maghery captured their first Senior title, now they are one match away from retaining their crown. The champions had been out of sorts and sluggish in both league and championship up until their last out, a semi-final, 2-13 to 0-16 win over Crossmaglen Rangers. Whilst Maghery had already defeated Cross in the championship most observers thought that at the second time of asking Rangers would beat the champions but not so as Maghery reserved their best display of the year to claim their place in the final. Their final opponents are Armagh Harps who have lost four finals since winning their twentieth title back in 1991.
Harps, losers in successive years to Cross 2014/15 had been talked up pre-championship as potential winners and began the campaign as such. A drawn semi-final and replay win over last year’s beaten finalists St Patrick’s saw Harps give mixed performances, mixing the good with the bad.
Verdict- Another final where the midfield battle may be the key ingredient and in which discipline could be the deciding factor. For me Maghery have timed their momentum to perfection coming to life like the seasoned campaigners that they are. Their key men hit the heights in the” big games” and I expect them to have a few points to spare at the final whistle after another pulsating contest.