Maghery braced for Pearse Óg test
THE Armagh Senior Football Championship gets up and running again this weekend following a recess of several weeks.
Maghery face Pearse Og in a round two game at the Athletic Grounds on Friday and then on Sunday Granemore and Carrickcruppen cross swords in a round one qualifer in Crossmaglen (3.30pm).
Though they have made it to three finals over the years Maghery, coached by Conleith Gilligan and managed by Dermot Forker and Joe Hendron, have yet to win the Gerry Fagan Cup.
They had a comfortable passage in the opening round up against new kids on the block, Forkhill, winning 1-14 to 0-9, but Armagh star Aidan Forker expects a tougher test tonight.
“It’s a game that we’ve been looking forward to,” he said.
“We haven’t come up against Pearse Og over the last few years in the championship but they’re always good, hard-fought games in the league.
“There’s nothing between us at the minute and there hasn’t been down the years so whoever comes out tomorrow night will have given their best performance.
“In previous years we would have seen ourselves as contenders (for the championship) but this year, given our indifferent league form, it’s just one game at a time and we’re not looking ahead.”
Maghery will field experienced performers like James Lavery, Stephen Cusack, Shea Tennyson, Gerard Campbell, and Conor Mackle and the Forker clan will be well represented tonight.
Aidan’s brother Stefan misses out with a knee injury but his brother Paul and cousins Conor and Seamus Forker will line out. Their brother Niall, the regular centre half-back is out with a broken collarbone, and another cousin, Owen Scullion, could come in at half-back.
Meanwhile, Pearse Og, the only team to lower Crossmaglen’s colours since the Rangers phenomenal rise to supremacy in 1995 have lost a number of key players through retirement and injury yet remain among the elite of Orchard club football. Despite conceding two early goals in their opening round against Sarsfields, the city side inspirationally led by former Allstar Ronan Clarke went on to record a 0-21 to 4-4 victory.
Litte separates both teams midway up the league table and tonight’s encounter is expected to be just as close. Ogs playing on their former home patch would be slight favourites.
They will be depending on tried and trusted servants such as Gerard Barton, Paul Duffy, Darnell Parkinson, Chris Rafferty, Sean Moore, Marc Cullen and the Clarke brothers Ronan, Conor and Ros to steer them through.
Former county man, Anto Duffy, who retired early in the Sarsfields game with a recurring shoulder injury, would be a massive blow for the Ogs if unable to start in his midfield berth. No doubt James Lavery, so disappointed at not making Kieran Mc Geeney’s squad this year, will be out to prove a point and if he can swing the game for Maghery in the middle of the park, the Lough Shore men would surely fancy their chances.
The return of the long-term injured Ronan Clarke, who recently tied the knot, has breathed new life into Ogs showing that he lost none off his old-point scoring panache. He could be the difference.