This weekend’s first semi final is between two of the biggest rivals in the county, Armagh’s answer to the ‘Old Firm’. There’s certainly no love lost between Ballymacnab and Granemore and with the prize being a county final appearance for the winner, these two foes will be filled with even more motivation to gain all the bragging rights on Saturday evening.
The sides have shared the pitch on four occasions in the Senior Championship, with the Round Towers currently ahead 3-1 and Granemore will certainly want to improve their record. Their last meeting came just two years ago when Ballymacnab trashed their opponents 2-18 to 1-6 in round two of the Championship.
They’ve met at the semi final stage before back in 2011 when two goals from Ryan Kennedy and Brian McCone saw the Nab victorious, 2-11 to 0-11. The Nab went on to play in their first even Senior Championship Final that year while they also contested the showpiece last season, making them favourites to get one over on their arch-rivals once more.
Granemore will have a thing or two to say about that of course and will be hugely confident of causing an upset as they have yet to lose a championship game in 2019. Having topped their group with three wins from three, a last minute point from Ciaran Boyd saw their unbeaten run extended as the St Mary’s side overcame Madden in the quarter finals.
The match ups will be key and both managers will have huge calls to make before throw in. Bernie Murray’s main concern will be the huge physical presence that Granemore present in the middle of the field with Brendan Boylan and Tony McClelland forming a fine partnership at centre-field, and their ability to win primary possession has been a huge addition to Granemore’s championship run.
With Paul Meegan suspended and Ryan Kennedy at full back, Ballymacnab lack a physical edge between the two 45s and Granemore will hope to expose this. Kevin Kelly usually kicks every restart long and trusts his midfield pairing to gain possession, just as he did against Madden last day out.
It’s when Ballymacnab have possession and are attacking that will worry Kelly and Granemore most. Over the course of Ballymacnab’s five championship games they have raised 12 green flags with the deadly duo of Gavin McParland and Jack Grugan the main threats as they have shared 9 three-pointers between them.
Granemore have been good defensively to date, conceding just one goal (in their first round victory over Armagh Harps) so far in the championship. The main question mark hanging over Eamon Kavanagh’s head all week long will have been who tracks McParland and Grugan? Ross Finn will likely leave his centre back position to shadow McParland while Darren Carr will retain his number three spot to pick up Grugan on the edge of the square.
Rory Grugan’s ability to link the play is another issue that will worry Granemore so whoever picks him up is sure to have their hands full. Ballymacnab do possess the better footballers but in a local derby anything can happen and Granemore have made a habit of winning recently and won’t fear their neighbours. Ballymacnab should be too strong and make the way to the championship final for the second year in a row.