Armagh Harps look to ‘Nab Quarter Final spot

Pearse Og Park will host an intriguing playoff encounter between two of the big hitters of Armagh football in recent years, Ballymacnab and Armagh Harps. Both sides enter the contest on the back of a defeat and will look to bounce back this weekend to remain in the competition.

The Harps have suffered a poor championship run to date with their solitary victory coming over St Peter’s in round two and last weekend they seemed in control at home to Silverbridge with Caolan McQuaid, Rory McGrath, Joe McElroy and Tom O’Kane all raising green flags before a late goal for the travelling side saw them lose out 4-8 to 1-19.

Ballymacnab were the opposite in their loss to Crossmaglen seven days ago as it was a horrible start that ultimately defeated them, handing the reigning champions a ten point lead before they opened their account. The Nab can take some positives from their six point defeat as they grabbed two goals in the second period to bring them back into the games.

The Round Towers have been in fine goal scoring form of late, hitting the net nine times across their three championship games and they will once again look to the Grugan brothers Rory and Jack along with Gavin McParland who form a potent forward unit. The Harps will be weary of their defence that conceded 1-19 to Silverbridge who were relegated from division 1A earlier in the season.

Armagh Harps could have the answer to Ballymacnab’s goal scoring threat with the returning Paddy Morrison likely to be between the posts after making his return last weekend and he will be keen to test himself against a dangerous forward line. Conor White will most likely be handed to task of curtailing Jack Grugan’s influence in full forward while Rory Grugan could lock horns with Declan McKenna around the centre of the park.

Gavin McParland has rattled the net on four occasions during the championship and who the Harps decide to track him will be interesting. Rory McGrath could be given man-marking job although this could detract from his attacking style of play which he has grown into over the past number of games.

The Harps boast their own attacking threat with Gareth Swift proving to be a handful on the edge of the square while speedster Tom O’Kane will take some watching as he is the man that makes his side tick. Ryan McShane could also feature having been ruled out for the last few months with an ankle injury.

Ryan Kennedy has been Ballymacnab’s go-to man marker for the last number few years and he could go toe to toe with O’Kane to limit his influence in the game while also posing an attacking threat from his centre half back position. Full back Cormac Gribben will likely stay close to goal and pick up Gareth Swift who has been in fine form of late.

Armagh Harps transitional play and they way their turn defence into attack with great pace is key to their chances on Sunday. With the likes of McGrath, Joe McElroy, Karol Loughran and Declan McKenna attacking from deep they have the potential to cause any teams serious problems.

On form Ballymacnab will be the favourites come Sunday afternoon but the Round Towers have only beaten the Harps once in their previous three championship meetings so it’s certain that the city side will enter the tie with supreme confidence. If both teams can reach their potential, it’s sure to be a rip-roaring contest with Ballymacnab most likely to have enough to see them through to the quarter final.

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