Cullyhanna and Crossmaglen clash for a place in Armagh Championship final
Armagh Senior Football Championship semi-final: St Patrick’s Cullyhanna v Crossmaglen Rangers (tomorrow, 5pm, live on Armagh TV)
TWO years ago, a last-minute Cullyhanna goal brought Crossmaglen’s six-year domination of the Armagh Senior Championship to an end.
The St Patrick’s outfit won the game by a single point and went into the final against Maghery believing that the hard work had already been done. It hadn’t been of course and Maghery won the decider by three points to claim their first ever senior title.
It took Cullyhanna time to shake off the hangover from their 2016 experience but former Louth and Monaghan manager Eamonn McEneaney has come in and re-energised a talented group of players who do battle with their south Armagh rivals tomorrow evening and the prize, once again, is a place in the final.
“The Cullyhanna boys have a great sprinkling of experience and they have a bit of steel as well in the ranks,” said McEneaney.
“They probably have as good a team as they’ve had for a number of years when you combine the youth that has come in with the guys like Ciaran McKeever and Mal Mackin who have been around a long time.
“They won the semi-final in 2016 and lost the county final and last year was sort of a recovery from all of that. It took its toll and they had to reorganise and go again this year.
“They have the appetite for it again and I’m hoping that that appetite and hunger and desire to win a first senior championship will see them through the match on Sunday.”
Cullyhanna have been the form team of the senior championship so far. Only Pearse Og have run them close and Tir na nOg, Granemore and, in the quarter-final, Silverbridge have all been put to the sword since.
Meanwhile, Crossmaglen’s campaign has gathered momentum. Early performances against Silverbridge and Madden were patchy but the Rangers found their form in their final group game, hammering Clann Eireann by 20 points, and dethroned champions Armagh Harps with a 10-point win at the quarter-final stage.
Rian O’Neill was outstanding at full-forward in that game and he could have experienced former Armagh defender Ciaran McKeever for company tonight while another potentially pivotal match-up is the clash of Cullyhanna’s Ross McQuillan and Crossmaglen’s Aaron Kernan.
Cullyhanna may opt to push Michael Murray up on Kernan and give the creative McQuillan a free role but Cross could dispatch fit again James Morgan to mark him and allow Kernan to dictate the play from his roving half-back role.
In midfield, Pearse Casey has been in superb form for Cullyhanna and he will cross swords with Oisin O’Neill with Cross veteran David McKenna possibly coming back into contention to start. Up front, Cullyhanna will look to Jason Duffy and Aidan Nugent for their scores while Cross have the eager Rian O’Neill and the pacey Kyle Carragher. Tony Kernan is not expected to feature.
Both sides play will match-up across the field and their first instinct is to attack so an open, entertaining game is expected tomorrow night. Crossmaglen have match-winners in their ranks but Cullyhanna have quality all over the field and they get the nod to progress to the final.