Ballymacnab can expect a tight encounter with fierce rival Granemore in Armagh SFC
FOLLOWING Crossmaglen’s preliminary round win over Clan na Gael, the Armagh Senior Football Championship competition first round proper begins tonight with heavy hitters Ballymacnab facing their biggest rivals and neighbours Granemore, in the Athletic Grounds at 7.30pm
Ballymacnab, Crossmaglen, Maghery, Killeavy and the up-and-coming Clann Eireann are among the favourites for silverware but even the bookies won’t separate the Nab and Granemore such is their rivalry.
The knockout nature of the competition means there is no room for slip-ups and Ballymacnab are still sore from losing to Madden last season.
League standings is a rough guide at best because it includes results from last year, but Ballymacnab slid down a grade after playing most of this year without their county men Ryan Kennedy and Rory and Jack Grugan.
It’s the latter who can probably tip the balance in Ballymacnab’s favour. Jack Grugan spent most of his time with Armagh on the sidelines and was named and substitute goalkeeper for the Ulster championship semi-final against Monaghan. Tonight, the big forward will be expected to give the Granemore defence a torrid time. He has lit up the Armagh club championships in recent seasons and as yet, no-one has been able to curtail his power and accuracy at the edge of the square, although Ross Finn may be given that task.
Granemore will look to cut off the supply into Jack Grugan and they always go on the front foot against their neighbours. Players such as Cathal O’Hare, Brendan Boylan and evergreen Jason O’Neill will take the game to the Nab and Marty Carr has been in impressive form this year.
Of course, county stars Rory Grugan and Ryan Kennedy are key players, but Ballymacnab are a seasoned championship side with quality throughout the team, such as Pauric Gribben, Michael Beagan and the goal-poacher Gavin McParland with plenty of big game experience. If you are going to the Athletic Grounds tonight, then wrap up as extra-time may be needed.
Also tonight, St Peter’s take on Pearse Og at Davitt Park, also with a 7.30pm throw-in.
St Peter’s move down into the intermediate grade next season, so this is their last throw of the dice in the senior championship for a while, but they’ll find it tough against the Armagh City side.
Gerard Barton and Vincie Brady are top defenders for Ogs although Vincie Brady may be given the tough mission of curtailing the influence of Niall McConville, who is the top scorer for the Lurgan side.
The Duffy lads Paul, Anto and Ruairi are still on top of their game for the City slickers and Chris Rafferty is a talented midfielder. Aaron Findon and Ruairi McDonald will pose Pearse Og problems, but the Armagh City now managed by Shorty Clarke is expected to progress.