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Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Weeks of Armagh Championship activity ahead

 ● Armagh GAA Cormac Leonard Commericals Senior Championship

Armagh club supporters are not at the cut and thrust end of the season as the new look Cormac Leonard Commercials Senior and Intermediate Championships join the already started Junior Championship as a feast of championship action dominates the next two months of Armagh football.

It is very feasible that a single group victory could do the trick to keep you in the championship 2018.

For the first time Armagh have used league finishing positions as a means of making the championship draws into group stages in which each team is guaranteed a minimum of 3 championship games be it home or away. The Group winners will advance to the quarter-finals of their respective championships, the second and third placed group teams will match up to play for a quarter final berth with the teams finishing bottom of their group facing championship elimination.

In the Senior draw it is Group C that immediately catches the eye as it contains champions of the last 2 years Armagh Harps (Holders) and Maghery 2016 winners and beaten by Harps 2-9 to 0-11 in last year’s final. Having achieved Division 1A League status under new manager Justin McNulty by winning 1B Killeavy will not be that much overawed with their prospects of progression against the current top two. Annaghmore are the fourth team in Group C and finished 9 points adrift of league winners Killeavy in the table. The opening series of fixtures in this Group C next weekend will be key for the “group minnows” as Annaghmore play host to Harps and Killeavy entertain Maghery but it will be the last match of the Group the second weekend in September when Killeavy host Annaghmore that will hold the key as to what 3 teams will remain in the championship. Harps , Maghery (¼ final) and Killeavy are my picks.

Group A houses Division 1A League champions for the very first time Ballymacnab and it will be most interesting to see if that league success will inspire this very talented bunch of players in the championship. The ‘Nab will be hot favourites to top this group which has Sarsfields and Whitecross from I B and Dromintee who have already played the ‘Nab twice in the league drawing and beating the league champions in the process. A championship win is all that will save Whitecross from Intermediate Football this year following 3 wins and a draw over the course of 14 league games. Sarsfields always give a good account of themselves in the championship as they have the ability to get goals but they need to tighten up a porous defense if they are to make any real impression. Ballymacnab (¼ final) Dromintee and Sarsfields to be still standing after the conclusion of the group.

Group B revives a long standing local derby that has been missing from the calender for too many years as Crossmaglen Rangers travel to Silverbridge in their opening match. I am open to correction but I believe it is 2002 in Carrickcruppen that these teams last met in the Senior championship with Cross winning 3-14 to 0-7. Rangers seem to be at a bit of a crossroads at present mixing good and bad results and struggling with injuries on top of that. It would be foolish given their pedigree to dismiss their 2018 championship prospects and their group opponents will have it all to do from stopping them from picking up a quarter-final spot on foot of 3 victories. Clann Eirean are the bright spot in Armagh football at present, youthful purposeful with plenty of scoring material and will be seeking a second win over Cross when they cross swords in the all important final group game in Crossmaglen. Madden’s preservation of their Division 1 B league status has to be commended and are doughty championship battlers well capable of causing an upset. Rangers (¼ finals), Clann Eireann and Silverbridge to advance.

Group D is another one that may not be as cut and dried as it looks on paper. St Pat’s having lost the league following 2 defeats to the ‘Nab are the obvious choice to top the group which contains two relegated league sides Granemore 2 wins 1 draw in Div I A and Tir na nOg 2 wins 12 losses are heading back to Intermediate unless they can perform a championship miracle. With the two group heavyweights Pearse Og with home advantage over St Pat’s in the opening match there is a great chance for one of the other two to bag an early very precious brace of points. Tir na nOg will have to account for Granemore in Portadown next Friday night. St. Pat’s will want to stamp their authority on this group from the outset if they are to be really seen as real live contenders and I expect them to beat Pearse Og on Saturday night next to get them up and running. Pearse Og and Granemore should carry just too much for Tir na nOg to snap up the remainiung two championship places.

Senior Championship Groups 2018

Group A

Ballymacnab | Dromintee | Sarsfields |Whitecross

Group B

Crossmaglen | Clann Eireann | Silverbridge | Madden

Group C

Maghery | Armagh Harps | Killeavy | Annaghmore

Group D

St Patrick’s | Granemore | Pearse Ogs | Tir na nOg

Round 1 Fixtures – 24th-27th August (First Team has Home Advantage)

Group A

Whitecross v Dromintee Friday 24th Aug 7.00pm

Sarsfields v Ballymacnab Saturday 25th Aug 5.00pm

Group B

Silverbridge v Crossmaglen Friday 24th Aug 7.00pm

Madden v Clann Eireann Saturday 25th Aug 5.00pm

Group C

Annaghmore v Armagh Harps Friday 24th Aug 7.00pm

Killeavy v Maghery Saturday 25th Aug 7.00pm

Group D

Tir na nOg v Granemore Friday 24th Aug 7.00pm

Pearse Ogs v St Patrick’s Saturday 25th Aug 7.00pm

Round 2 Fixtures – 31st Aug-2nd Sept (First Team has Home Advantage)

Group A

Whitecross v Ballymacnab, Friday 31st Aug at 6.45pm

Dromintee v Sarsfields, Saturday 1st Sept at 6.30pm

Group B

Madden v Crossmaglen, Saturday 1st Sept at 6.30pm

Clann Eireann v Silverbridge, Saturday 1st Sept at 6.30pm

Group C

Annaghmore v Maghery, Friday 31st Aug at 6.45pm

Armagh Harps v Killeavy, Saturday 1st Sept at 4.30pm

Group D

Granemore v Pearse Ogs, Friday 31st Aug at 6.45pm

Tir na nOg v St Patrick’s, Saturday 1st Sept at 6.30pm

Round 3 Fixtures – 7th-10th September (First Team has Home Advantage)

All times will be confirmed by the CCC at a later date.

Group A

Ballymacnab v Dromintee, Saturday 8th Sept TBC

Sarsfields v Whitecross, Saturday 8th Sept TBC

Group B

Crossmaglen v Clann Eireann, Saturday 8th Sept TBC

Silverbridge v Madden, Saturday 8th Sept TBC

Group C

Maghery v Armagh Harps, Sunday 9th Sept TBC

Killeavy v Annaghmore, Sunday 9th Sept TBC

Group D

St Patrick’s v Granemore, Sunday 9th Sept TBC

Pearse Ogs v Tir na nOg, Sunday 9th Sept TBC

Play-Off Round – 14th-16th September (Neutral Venues)

Group A Runners Up v Group B 3rd Place

Group B Runners Up v Group A 3rd Place

Group C Runners Up v Group D 3rd Place

Group D Runners Up v Group C 3rd Place

Quarter-Finals 21st-24th September (Neutral Venues)

Winner of Group A v Play-Off Winner

Winner of Group B v Play-Off Winner

Winner of Group C v Play-Off Winner

Winner of Group D v Play-Off Winner

Avoid Repeat Pairings where possible

Semi-Final 5th-7th October (Neutral Venues)

Avoid Repeat Pairings where possible

Final 20th/21st October

Athletic Grounds

Tough to call the Intermediate winners

The 2018 Intermediate championship is perhaps the most even and competitive of the 3 in Armagh with a number of teams fancying their chances of outright victory. St Peter’s, St Paul’s, Culloville may be the leading fancies but three more South Armagh sides Shane O’Neill’s, Mullaghbawn and Forkhill all sporting full strength sides cannot be overlooked. Grange and Clan Na Gael are another brace of Jekyll and Hyde teams that if they can get on a roll could feature.

The Group draws have been pretty fair with Group B getting the nod as the toughest. Forkhill need the championship to save them from Junior football next year as a lot of injuries at the wrong time left them struggling for players in key league games. The importance of their opening home championship encounter with Wolfe Tone on Saturday night cannot be understated as it is followed by an other at home to St Paul’s before an away game at Shanes finishes off the group. Shanes are Div 2 B League champions and coupled along with St Paul’s and Wolfe Tone points will be at a premium in this Group. Still I expect St Paul’s (¼ finals), Shanes and Forkhill to survive the first championship cull.

Group A has an even spread of 2 teams from each division although technically Grange will be dropping down to 2B for next year. Poor league form from all 4 teams leaves this group wide open when it comes to championship progression. Clan Na Gael by sheer reputation alone will be a leading fancy and Grange if they can get their act together will also be expected to advance. It is hard to know just what Crossmaglen 11 will have available to them come the championship. Realistically there should be a place in the next round for the winner of the Cross 11 v Balllyhegan third and final Group game. Clan Na Gael (¼ finals) Grange and Ballyhegan to advance.

With the hurling distraction out of their way Middletown will have a big part to play in Group C. On League form Culloville look to be the groups top seed with a Monday night away trip to Middletown a very stiff early tester to their chances. No league wins from 14 outings for Cruppen makes for poor reading but I expect a championship reaction from them beginning with a surprise opening away win over Eire Og which will set them up for championship qualification in third place. Culloville (¼ finals), Middletown and Carrickcruppen to come through out of this group.

St Peter’s are on a lot of lips as potential champions but they need not underestimate their Group D opponents. Mullaghbawn have plenty of potential but the question of delivery crops up every year but possess enough firepower to put other group teams Tullysarran and Clonmore to the sword with a quarter-final berth there for the winner of their away game with the Peter’s. Mullaghbawn (¼ finals) St Peter’s and Tullysarran to make it into the next round

Group A

Clan na Gael | Grange | Crossmaglen ll | Ballyhegan

Group B

St Paul’s | Wolfe Tones | Shane O’Neill’s | Forkhill

Group C

Culloville | Carrickcruppen | Middletown | Eire Og

Group D

St Peter’s | Mullaghbawn | Tullysaran | Clonmore

Round 1 Fixtures – 24th-27th August (First Team has Home Advantage)

Group A

Ballyhegan v Grange, Friday 24th Aug at 7.00pm

Crossmaglen ll v Clan na Gael, Saturday 25th Aug at 7.00pm

Group B

Shane O’Neill’s v St Paul’s, Friday 24th Aug at 7.00pm

Forkhill v Wolfe Tones, Saturday 25th Aug at 7.00pm

Group C

Eire Og v Carrickcruppen, Saturday 25th Aug at 7.00pm

Middletown v Culloville, Monday 27th Aug at 7.00pm

Group D

Clonmore v Mullaghbawn, Friday 24th Aug at 7.00pm

Tullysaran v St Peter’s, Saturday 25th Aug at 5.00pm

Round 2 Fixtures – 31st Aug-2nd Sept (First Team has Home Advantage)

Group A

Ballyhegan v Clan na Gael, Friday 31st Aug at 6.45pm

Grange v Crossmaglen ll, Saturday 1st Sept at 4.30pm

Group B

Forkhill v St Paul’s, Saturday 1st Sept at 6.30pm

Wolfe Tones v Shane O’Neill’s, Saturday 1st Sept at 4.30pm

Group C

Eire Og v Culloville, Saturday 1st Sept at 6.30pm

Carrickcruppen v Middletown, Saturday 1st Sept at 4.30pm

Group D

Clonmore v St Peter’s, Friday 31st Aug at 6.45pm

Mullaghbawn v Tullysaran, Saturday 1st Sept at 4.30pm

Round 3 Fixtures – 7th-10th September (First Team has Home Advantage)

Group A

Clan na Gael v Grange, Saturday 8th Sept – TBC

Crossmaglen ll v Ballyhegan, Saturday 8th Sept – TBC

Group B

St Paul’s v Wolfe Tones, Sunday 9th Sept – TBC

Shane O’Neill’s v Forkhill, Sunday 9th Sept – TBC

Group C

Culloville v Carrickcruppen, Sunday 9th Sept -TBC

Middletown v Eire Og, Sunday 9th Sept -TBC

Group D

St Peter’s v Mullaghbawn, Sunday 9th Sept -TBC

Tullysaran v Clonmore, Sunday 9th Sept – TBC

Play-Off Round – 14th-16th September (Neutral Venues)

Group A Runners Up v Group B 3rd Place

Group B Runners Up v Group A 3rd Place

Group C Runners Up v Group D 3rd Place

Group D Runners Up v Group C 3rd Place

Quarter Finals 21st-24th September (Neutral Venues)

Winner of Group A v Play-Off Winner

Winner of Group B v Play-Off Winner

Winner of Group C v Play-Off Winner

Winner of Group D v Play-Off Winner

Avoid Repeat Pairings where possible

Semi Final 5th-7th October (Neutral Venues)

Avoid Repeat Pairings where possible

Final 20th/21st October

Athletic Grounds

Round Robin

The winners of each group will automatically qualify for the Quarter-Finals

In the event of teams finishing on equal points in a group, the tie shall be decided by the following means and in the order specified:

(1) Where two teams only involved – the outcome of the meeting of the two teams in the group.

(2) Score difference – subtracting the total scores against from the total scores for.

(3) Highest total for

(4) Highest total goals for

(5) A Play 0ff