Clash of the clans... Lurgan rivals Clan na Gael and Clann Eireann square-up in Armagh semi-final
BRAGGING rights and a place in the Armagh Championship decider are up for grabs when Lurgan rivals Clann Eireann and Clan na Gael clash in the first of the Orchard county semi-finals on Saturday.
With 14 senior titles behind them, ‘the Clans’ are well ahead of their neighbours but their most recent success was in 1994 while the third of Clann Eireann’s crowns came just two years ago.
With ladies (Clann Eireann are senior champions, Clan na Gael were intermediate finalists) and underage teams also making strides, both clubs are enjoying success across the board and the outcome of Saturday’s game has been the main topic in conversation in the town since the semi-final draw was made.
“Whoever we got at the semi-final stage it would have been a tough game,” said Clann Eireann manager Ruairi Lavery.
“There’s a bit of extra spice with it being our neighbours and there’s some craic around the town but if you have any aspirations of winning the championship you have to beat whoever comes out of the hat.
“The Clans have a really good underage structure. They won the minor championship two years in-a-row so they are coming on strong and the longer they go in this championship the more belief it’s going to give them.
“We have a lot of underage players coming through as well and our second team (junior championship finalists) has been a massive factor in terms of getting all of them competitive football and that can only be good in terms of sustaining our senior team to the level we’re trying to get to.
“There’s a good buzz around the town and long may it continue.”
Under the management of Warrenpoint native Ronan McMahon, Clan na Gael are unbeaten in five championship games this season. County duo Stefan Campbell and Shane McPartlan provide the bulk of their scores but they have a quality supporting cast behind them.
“I saw bits of their game (quarter-final) against Killeavy,” said Lavery.
“They played with the wind in the first half and put a big press onto the Killeavy kickouts that got seven scores. They looked impressive – any team that beats Killeavy deserves it so fair play to them, they’re going really well.”
Clan na Gael beat Killeavy in their quarter-final while Clann Eireann had to come through a determined test from Silverbridge to win theirs. Midway through the second half there was nothing between the teams but Clann Eireann’s bench strength – Rioghan Meehan, Jack Conlan and Aodhan McConville all came on and got on the scoresheet – saw them comfortably over the line at the finish.
“We were banking on the game being a bit more open going into the second half and we thought there would be a bit more space, so we thought that pace Rioghan has and that threat that he has would hopefully see the game out for us,” said Lavery.
“People had said that we sailed through the group stage and nobody put it up to us, well Silverbridge certainly put it up to us. We were coming in after a three-week break and it took us a wee bit of time to get up to speed but thankfully we got through the game ok.”