Crossmaglen take on Whitecross as they bid to regain their Armagh SFC title
Donnelly Group Armagh SFC 1: Ballymacnab 2-16 Culloville 1-9
THE suspensions of county men Rory Grugan and Gavin McParland mattered little to Ballymacnab last night as they eased past Culloville 2-16 to 1-9 in Silverbridge last night writes Padraig Kelly.
The south Armagh side have endured a difficult campaign to date having suffered relegation back to the intermediate ranks, but they actually raised the first green flag as they struck in the first half.
Their joy was short-lived though as from the kick-out, Lenny Harbinson’s side cleverly worked the ball down the pitch and Jack Grugan was on hand to palm the ball home.
The ’Nab pushed on in the second half and Pauric Gribben’s goal put some extra gloss on the 10-point win.
FOR only the second time since 1996, Crossmaglen will begin their championship campaign attempting to regain the Gerry Fagan Cup rather than trying to retain it.
The last time, in 2010, saw the side go on to collect back-to-back All-Ireland titles, and Whitecross will offer little resistance in Cullyhanna this evening (7pm).
Cross manager Gareth O’Neill, who will be minus the services of coach Oisin McConville this year, will be missing a few players though with his son Rian on trial with AFL club North Melbourne while Tony Kernan will also miss out with an ankle injury.
They will still have too much class for their opponents though, who should bring a physical approach through the McSherrys, Cathal, Neil and Ryan, while Mark Shields will be their most effective attacking threat.
Cross’s previous defeat in 2009 came at the hands of a Pearse Og side managed by Brendan Hughes, and he will be aiming to down another champion as his Madden side meet holders Maghery at Abbey Park tomorrow (2.45pm).
The Raparees will have Niall Grimley back from county duty to add to their attacking arsenal, but they are too open at the back to deny Shane McConville’s side.
Maghery, who will be without the suspended Aidan Forker, were handed a boost with the return of inspirational midfielder Ben Crealey in recent weeks, and he should help drive them safely into the next round.
The curtain-raiser at Abbey Park (1pm) is perhaps the hardest game of the weekend to call as Dromintee face Sarsfields.
The St Patrick’s outfit were brilliant in attack as they eased to Senior B promotion but huge question marks remain over their defence, especially with Aaron McKay out with a hamstring injury.
They do have a brilliant goal-scorer in the skillful Cathal McKenna, but Sarsfields will try to bully him and the rest of the Dromintee team out of it – as they have done a number of times in recent years.
The High moss men are missing a few men themselves, and manager, and former Derry player, Johnny Niblock may end up being part of their matchday squad.
Clann Eireann are viewed as the up-and-coming team in the county, but they will face a stiff opener against Pearse Og at the Athletic Grounds tomorrow evening (7pm).
The Lurgan side made a great start to the league before their form tailed off badly, but wins over Crossmaglen and Cullyhanna in their last two outings steadied the ship. Manager Kieran Robinson may have Shea Heffon back from a wrist injury.
Pearse Og were relegated out of Senior A with a just a win to their name, but that was against Clann Eireann. Adrian Clarke has his son Ronan on the sideline and they’ll look to the likes of Anto Duffy and Marc Cullen to help them repeat the trick but Clann Eireann should come away with the win.
That’s the second game in a double-header with last year’s finalists Cullyhanna and Wolfe Tone clashing at (5.15pm).
Mick O’Dowd’s side are down serious numbers, including poacher Aidan Nugent, but the Derrymacash men are missing almost half their starters, including former county defender Ruairi McCaughley. The south Armagh men should be far too strong.
The final two games will see John Rafferty’s Granemore take on Tir na nOg, who are carrying suspensions from last year’s game with Dromintee, in Maghery this evening (6.30pm) while John Toner’s Armagh Harps should waltz by Annaghmore in Pearse Og Park with throw-in at 7pm this evening.
Donnelly Group Armagh Senior Football Championship 1
Saturday, August 12
Tir na nÓg v Granemore (Maghery, 6:30pm)
Whitecross v Crossmaglen Rangers (Cullyhanna, 7pm)
Armagh Harps v Annaghmore (Pearse Ogs, 7pm)
Sunday, August 13
St Patrick’s, Dromintee v Sarsfields (Armagh Harps, 1pm)
Madden v Maghery Seán MacDiarmada (Armagh Harps, 2:45pm)
Wolfe Tones v St Patrick’s (Athletic Grounds, 5:15pm)
Pearse Og v Clann Eireann (Athletic Grounds, 7pm)