Ten years ago this week Pearse Ogs knocked Crossmaglen out of the championship to halt the then Ulster Champions in their pursuit of 14 Armagh titles in consecutive years. The Ogs went on to win the 2009 Armagh Championship while their opponents this weekend didn’t make it past the first round.
How times have changed since then, as the city side have struggled in recent years to put their stamp on the Armagh Championship but with Shane McConville now at the wheel the Ogs will look to take a big scalp in Ballymacnab. The Round Towers will head into the game as favourites but may not have everything their own way.
The current crop of Ogs players have retained some survivors from that 2009 championship winning side, with the Duffy brothers Paul and Anto instrumental in both teams while Chris Rafferty, Marc Cullen and Gerard Barton also link past with present. Conor Clarke has to be content with a place on the bench in 2019 but is still a vital cog to the Ogs set up.
These experienced heads have been assisted by some fresh legs with the likes of Vincy Brady, Conor McNicholl and the Freeman brothers Shea and James, playing some great stuff this season, leading their side to a Division 1B title as well as an unbeaten run of three games in the championship.
The opposing teams this weekend have had contrasting entries into the quarter finals, with the Ogs topping group three and booking their place in the last eight after just two round-robin games while Ballymacnab had to scrape through the play offs with a point to spare against Armagh Harps last Sunday.
Only three league places split Ballymacnab and Pearse Ogs so this game could be much closer than some expect. Ballymacnab were the better side against the Harps although missing some of their regular starters with James Gray, Michael Beagan and Pauric Gribben not seeing any game time.
The three men could see some action on Saturday evening should their side need them. The Ogs on the other hand have had an extra week’s recovery and should be fresh heading into battle this weekend with a full squad to pick from as they rested some key men during their round three clash against Culloville.
Their defence is quite inexperienced at this level and although they have already beaten two division 1A sides in Killeavy and St Patrick’s this will be a tougher task. Against Cullyhanna, Sean Sutton, Vincy Brady and Conor McNicholl were handed man marking roles which they dealt with superbly, against Aidan Nugent, Jason Duffy and Ross McQuillan respectively.
Gerard Barton will look forward to the physical battle presented by Ballymacnab’s Jack Grugan but the lack of physicality across the rest of the defence will worry Pearse Ogs. Sean Sutton could see himself pinned against Gavin McParland while Conor McNicholl is likely to pick up Rory Grugan further out the field.
Paul Duffy is the man who makes the city side tick so Ryan Kennedy could be the one to curtail his influence on proceedings, giving Kennedy a chance to push further forward from his usual full back position and help his attack out as well while Paul Meegan and Anto Duffy will wrestle it out in the middle of the park.
Pearse Ogs have the form heading into the contest but Ballymacnab look the stronger side on paper and with some of their players returning from injury they’re only getting stronger. Pearse Ogs will be no pushovers and will look forward to their chance of getting into the last four but Ballymacnab should have too much for the young side on this occasion.