Steven McDonnell: Clanns show they're a coming force in Armagh football while Down decider features familiar rivals
SOME county finalists have now been decided, and there are a couple of games that many people will have a keen interest in. Close to home in the Armagh decider, Crossmaglen play Clann Eireann, while in Down, Burren take on the reigning champions and fierce rivals Kilcoo.
It comes as no real surprise that the Down final has been paired as it is as both of these teams are ahead of the rest in terms of overall quality, but Clonduff are a team that is closing that gap. These sides have met many times over the last 15 years with Kilcoo holding the upper hand, but Burren have a group of young lads just out of minor football last year, that have blended well into the team and are keeping more experienced players out of the starting 15.
With this, they have injected a lot more pace into the side and they could be a different proposition for Kilcoo this time around. A sign of a great team is when they aren't at their best, but they still know how to win games and that has been a constant trait with Kilcoo throughout this campaign. All of their games have been tight encounters but to beat Burren in the final, they will need to rise it a couple of levels which I'm sure they will.
There is never too much between these sides, and this game will be no different, but providing predictions with the game still a week and a half away would be a foolish thing to do. I expect fireworks though, which will add to the spark of the final.
In Armagh, Clann Eireann have proved that if you invest time and energy into underage structures, then the rewards will eventually filter up to senior level.
They have done just that over the last 10 to 15 years and have experienced a lot of underage success by doing so. This success breeds confidence and the players have reached this year's final by playing a style of football that suits the squad they have. Their approach obviously works as knocking out the reigning champions, Maghery proves.
Champions don't go down too easy and to beat them, you have to have a confidence about you as well as having great footballing ability. They certainly have that.
Crossmaglen know exactly what they are facing into as they have been here year after year, but Clann Eireann have a forward unit that can cause harm to even the best defences out there, and if they can manage to click into gear, then this would be a game worth watching. From my understanding, both Armagh and Down finals are to be played on Sunday, November 7.
Wouldn't it be great if both Down and Armagh County Boards collaborated with each other, and one played their final on the Saturday evening with the other taking place on the Sunday afternoon?
This would allow supporters from both counties with a keen interest in both games, to attend them. I've also thought about this over the last few years but would be unsure of the logistics around it and if it would ever be something that would be considered.
For one year only, play the Armagh final in Pairc Esler and the Down final in the Athletic Grounds.
By doing so, I think this would generate more interest as it would be unique, while at the same time would increase the capacities at both finals which adds to the occasion for the players.
It's only a thought, though, but one that might someday come to fruition. After all, generating bigger gates is always an attractive proposition.
The Tyrone semi-finals take place this weekend with Dromore playing Trillick and Errigal Ciaran playing Coalisland. The two most impressive teams in the competition so far have been Errigal Ciaran and Trillick but come semi-final time, that really counts for nothing.
I've seen enough of Dromore over the last two years to believe that they are a team capable of winning a championship, so I am going against the form here, and going to tip them to overcome Trillick.
In the other game, Coalisland have shown great character in their games so far but Errigal Ciaran might just have an edge on them. They have a lot of pace in their side and when they play using it, they can cause serious harm to any team. Dromore and Errigal Ciaran it is for me to reach the final.