Senior Championship Preview
Crossmaglen will no doubt be everyone’s favourites to triumph above the rest in this year’s Senior Championship and complete their ‘two in a row’ but unlike other years they won’t have it all their own way. League Champions Maghery look to be the biggest challengers to the throne with Ballymacnab and Armagh Harps also looking to capture the trophy. The Senior Championship kicks off this weekend with games played on Friday, Saturday and Monday.
Crossmaglen – Ballymacnab – Clann Eireann – Sarsfields
Last season’s Champions will have to overcome the same side they beat in the 2018 county final to secure top spot of Group 1. Crossmaglen will be favourites to land the top position and they will hope that Rian O’Neill can carry his Armagh form into the club championship while Aaron Kernan is still the architect of a lot of their play. Ballymacnab meanwhile will also feel they can top the group but injuries have took their toll at the tail end of the league. Rory and Jack Grugan along with Gavin McParland form a lethal attack while Captain Michael Beagan will steady the ship at the back. Sarsfields have already been relegated from the Senior division and will battle it out with Clann Eireann to earn the final playoff spot. Their forward unit can cause some bother with the McGeown brothers Eamon and Paul along with Michael Stevenson but can they do enough at the other end of the field is the question. Clann Eireann missed out on promotion to the top flight and will open their campaign without a raft of their younger stars that have spent the summer in America, the aim will be to secure a playoff place and push on when the likes of Ryan Owens and Conor Turbitt return from the states.
Armagh Harps – Silverbridge – Granemore – St Peter’s
Armagh Harps suffered a poor championship run last season when they were beaten by Maghery in the group stages before being knocked out by Crossmaglen in the quarter final. The return of Gareth Swift this year will boost their forward division while Joe McElroy, Charlie Vernon and Declan McKenna will cause headaches for any team. They will also hope to have Ryan McShane back in their ranks as he recovers from an ankle injury picked up earlier in the year. Granemore have bounced straight back up to the top flight after their relegation last season and their blend of youth and experience around the centre of the park has helped them to do so. Brendan Boylan and Tony McClelland share a strong midfield partnership while Ross Finn will anchor their defence. Silverbridge experienced a difficult league campaign and will look to Joe Rock and Peter Carragher to lead their charge in the Championship. Jarly Og Burns also spent the summer abroad and Silverbridge will be keen for the county starts return. Last year’s Intermediate Champions St Peter’s done well in this year’s league, winning 6 games and will hope the strength of Aaron Findon in midfield along with the scoring prowess of Niall McConville will be enough to see them through to a playoff spot.
Maghery – Dromintee – Madden – Annaghmore
Group 3 is déjà vu for Madden as they have faced both Maghery and Dromintee in their last two Championship campaigns beating Dromintee twice while falling at the hands of Maghery on both occasions. Niall Grimley will be the Raparees leader while their attacking division consisting of Conor Grimly, Aron McKenna and Ciaran Rafferty should see them secure a playoff position. League Champions Maghery will most likely top the group with three wins from three and continue to build on their league form. The Forker clan will be the ones to watch with the supporting cast of James Lavery, Ciaran Higgins, Ben Crealey and Stephen Cusack making the 2016 winners a formidable opponent. Dromintee survived the drop to Senior League B with a win on the final day of the season and should be able to hold on to a playoff position in this group. Cathal McKenna remains sidelined so the likes of Aaron McKay, Darren McKenna and Conor Martin will be the leaders for the south Armagh side. Like Dromintee, Annaghmore retained their Senior status on the final day and will be confident of overcoming anyone who travels to their grounds. The Mac Iomhair brother Ciaran and Oisin are the key men while Connor Cullen will bolster their attacking options.
Killeavy – St Patrick’s – Pearse Ogs – Culloville
The final group is perhaps the hardest to call as Killeavy, St Patrick’s and Pearse Ogs will all look to fill the top spot. Unfortunately for Culloville their league campaign will not have filled them with much hope as they won just once all year, their win coming on the last day. Niall Rowland is still the main man for Culloville and they will need Ryan Garvey and Shane Carragher on top form to have any chance of progressing through the group stages. Pearse Ogs topped section B of the Senior League with 11 wins from 14 games and they should be happy with their group. Paul and Anto Duffy still lead from the front while the Freeman’s Shea and James along with Vincy Brady will try and continue their good form build up during the league. St Patrick’s have been challengers for the top prize for a few years but this season they suffered relegation from the top sector of the league. They should still have enough to gain at least a play off place in Group 4 with Aidan Nugent and Kyle Reid their main attacking threats. Killeavy were perhaps hailed as the ‘easiest’ of the top four teams and they now face the challenge of proving the doubters wrong. Justin McNulty is in his second year with the youthful side and he has plenty of talent at his disposal. Conor O’Neill undoubtedly is the shining light while Kyle Mallon, James Donnelly and Caolan McConville are there for assistance.