Armagh SFC preview: St Pat's, Cullyhanna vs Armagh Harps
Beaten finalists of the last two years, Armagh Harps and St Patrick’s, Cullyhanna go head-to-head tonight in a second round tie.
St Pat’s who are about to claim the Division One league title having beaten neighbours Crossmaglen along the way are the most improved side in the past decade but have yet to win a senior championship. In fact, 2013 was their first final appearance, losing to Cross.
Harps too have had an impressive league run, sitting third, having played most of their games without county men Charlie Vernon, Declan McKenna, Mark McConville and net minder Paddy Morrison. However, their key man this season, former county player Gareth Swift, may have to sit this one out with an injury.
Harps have a more notable championship tradition but have to go back over 20 years, to the playing days of current manager John Toner, for their last success.
They had it tight enough scaling the first round against Wolfe Tones which ended 1-15 to 2-8 while St Pat’s had a much more comfortable run out seeing off St Paul’s, 2-12 to 0-8.
The loss of Ciaran McKeever, who had been their anchor man for so long, has not really impacted on the Cullyhanna outfit. They are playing with tremendous belief and purpose and a defence that includes county men Michael Murray and Sean Connell is well structured with the likes of seasoned campaigners Stephen Reel and Paudie McCreesh.
The awesome strength of their middle third area is cemented by the consistency of midfielder Barry McConville ably supported by Gary McCooey. The mainstays of their attack are freetaker Tony Donnelly, Robbie Tasker and Gareth Mackin and Aidan Nugent.
Harps could very well parade their county men Charlie Vernon and Declan McKenna in the middle of the park and much could depend on who dominates this crucial sector. The loss of target man Swift could weaken their threat in the attacking department.
St Pat’s are certainly men on a mission this season and may just continue to carry their impressive league form a step further into the championship.