Ramor set to run out of steam
BACK in 2003 Maghery took the difficult decision to re-grade in order to build for a brighter future.
Come the end of that year, they found themselves in the intermediate final and comfortably saw off Madden on a 2-13 to 1-8 scoreline.
As they left the field with the cup, Crossmaglen were coming on it to it before claiming their eighth straight senior success at the expense of Dromintee.
It was where Maghery wanted to be but they knew they were miles off. The top teams were literally a level above them.
They worked to close that gap though and earlier this month they got their reward with a first senior title after defeating Cullyhanna.
It seems strange, but some of the players will be dipping into their intermediate experience ahead of tomorrow’s Ulster quarter-final against Cavan champions Ramor United, the club’s first game at this level.
That win over Madden opened the door to Ulster football before it was finally closed by a Colm McFadden-inspired St Michael’s in the provincial final.
Not too many of the players remain from that squad, but men like James Lavery, Gerard Campbell, Paul Forker and Semaus Forker will hope that it offers even a wee bit of an insight into what they can expect at the Athletic Grounds.
Ramor too have Ulster experience to call on, and it’s much more recent even if it wasn’t as successful.
A large portion of their team involved in January’s U21 Championship in Creggan. Antrim champions St John’s proved much too strong in their first outing, but valuable experience was harnessed.
Then there are the respective managers. Maghery boss Shane McConville led St Paul’s into Ulster Intermediate action two years ago while Michael McDermott can point to the brilliant feat of guiding Clare side Kilmurry-Ibrickane to the 2009 All-Ireland final where they lost out to St Gall’s.
These sides may both be viewed as new kids on the block, but they both do have relevant experiences to call on.
It’s the Orchard side that would appear to be on the more solid footing heading into the game.
It’s now two weeks since that win over Cullyhanna, and they were back at training 10 days ago.
Ramor didn’t have that luxury. The weather forced the postponement of their Cavan final replay against Castlerahan, and the wild celebrations that greeted their first title in 23 years last Sunday only ceased earlier this week.
There was much to admire from McDermott’s side in that win. In the original fixture they had thrown away a five-point lead with just three minutes remaining, and they trailed for long patches of the replay before showing that they had learned their lesson as they closed the game out.
They may be incredibly youthful, but it was left to long-serving full-forward Adrian Cole to get them over the line as he kicked four points from play in the 0-10 to 0-8 success.
With young talent like Matthew Magee, who is still minor, Brian O’Connell, Cathal Maguire and Conor Bradley bringing plenty of enthusiasm to the squad, they will fancy their chances of an upset, especially if joint-captain Jack Brady is able to play from the start.
Maghery will also carry an air of confidence, and it’s probably more justified given their performances this year.
Perhaps their most impressive attribute in Armagh was their supreme fitness levels and they should have a significant edge on a Ramor side still worn out from last weekend.
As usual, much of Maghery’s hopes will hang on the triumvirate of James Lavery, Ben Crealey and Ronan Lappin around the centre.
Lavery, their chief ball winner, struggled to get into the game in the first half against Cullyhanna and Aidan Forker was left cutting a frustrated figure on the edge of the square as he had to live off scraps.
Lavery improved considerably after the break and Forker was given a much healthier supply, although his shooting was less accurate in the second half.
Another ace they possess apart from fitness is strength in depth.
David Lavery captained St Patrick’s Academy to the 2009 MacRory Cup but he had to make do with a cameo from the bench in the county final. His brother Jack didn’t even get on the field while there was no start for Shea Tenneyson despite his impressive semi-final performance against Clann Eireann. Add into the mix the likes of Paul Forker and Seamus Forker and McConville has real options to call on if required.
It’s unlikely that the Lurgan man will have to turn to his bench to produce some magic though. Whatever the 15 that takes to the field, they should have too much for their Breffni opponents and another Ulster journey should gather some steam – this time at the level they truly desire.