Granemore host Armagh Harps this evening to open both sides Championship accounts for 2019. While the visiting side are strong favourites to come away with an opening day win, Granemore won’t fear the travelling team and the men in green and white will be confident of overturning any team at home.
The hosts enjoyed a league campaign that saw them reach the top flight of Senior football after they had been relegated last season, winning 8 of their 14 games. Armagh Harps form on the other hand was quite mixed during the league but they did enough to fulfil their target in nabbing a top four spot.
The centre of the field could be a deciding factor in today’s contest as both sides will look to swamp the middle third with big men. Brendan Boylan and Tony McClelland fill the two midfield slots for Granemore while they’ll be supported by the likes of Pete Carr, Kieran Doyle and veteran Kieran Toner, who could also see game time at the edge of the square.
Similarly the Harps share a strong centerfield pairing with Declan McKenna partnering Charlie Vernon with assistance coming from Conor White and Joe McElroy. The crowd could witness an old fashioned contest round the middle as both keepers are likely to have confidence in their team’s ability to win primary possession.
The Harps forward division has been boosted by the return of Gareth Swift to action this year providing them with a strong option either from the throw in or from the bench while Ryan ‘Mini’ McShane will be eagerly awaiting his return to action after suffering an ankle injury earlier in the season.
The Granemore defence look to be up against it and will no doubt turn to the trustworthy Ross Finn to pick up the oppositions danger man while Padraig Hollywood is there to give assistance. Finn usually lines out at centre half back but could fill any position along the back six depending on the task at hand and with likes of Swift, McShane, Tom O’Kane and Kevin Kelly all needing watched.
The Harps may throw a spanner into the works with their team selection as Joe McElroy has filled the number 11 jersey in previous years while Conor White spent time in the full forward position during the league. The Harps could use this tactic to target a small Granemore full back line and send White to full forward for spells during the contest.
The home side will be confidant of their attacking ability as well with the O’Neill brothers Eoin and Jason playing together in the inside line while Liam Doyle pulls the strings from centre half forward. Young Louis Hughes has burst on to the scene this year and will more than likely see game time this evening.
One of the problems facing Granemore’s forward division is the constant attacking darts the Harps half back line are likely to make. Karol Loughran has made a name for himself off his ball carrying ability as he looks to break the lines going forward. Joe McElroy similarly likes to attack from deep and his pace and power will cause constant headaches for his opponents.
Eamon Kavanagh’s men will be confident of causing an upset tonight and a draw would be an acceptable result to get their championship up and running. The Harps however will be disappointed with anything other than an away victory and it’s hard to see the visitors not grabbing the two points on offer. The bookies are rarely wrong and you’d feel the safe bet is with Armagh Harps this evening.