End of Year Review – Intermediate

Mullaghbawn:

Mullaghbawn were the stand-out team in Division 2A in 2019 and through their impressive league performances, they headed towards championship season as heavy favourites to go one further than the year previous and lift the trophy. However, this was not to be and they will be content with winning the league.

The eventual league champions sent out a clear sign of intent at the beginning of the league, hitting a remarkable seven game winning streak before Middletown surprisingly stopped them in their tracks. They did enjoy further wins over Whitecross and Shane O’Neill’s to stay four points clear at the end of the league.

 Leading into the business end of the season, Mullaghbawn cruised through their championship group, claiming maximum points in all three of their games against Tullysaran, Crossmaglen IIs and Middletown to head straight through to the quarter final stages, unscathed.

They faced Grange, and the Intermediate Championship held its breath in anticipation of a ding-dong battle and that’s what they got. They couldn’t be separated after 60 minutes and Grange scrapped through in extra time. Mullaghbawn achieved the goal of Senior football in 2020, but they will be disappointed it didn’t come with a championship winning season.

Clan na Gael:

Clan na Gael will have come away questioning what 2019 was all about. They secured Senior status for 2020 on the final day of the league with a 9-14 to 2-6 win over Middletown and looked confident of backing their league form up with a good championship run. But in the championship, all their hard work throughout the year came crumbling around them.

Four wins from five games got the Lurgan men off to a fantastic start in the league but they wouldn’t pick up maximum points again until round 10 were they dominated Whitecross 2-20 to 0-9. Clans won three of their final five games to secure promotion, just nudging ahead of St Paul’s.

They gained the full six points from three games during the group stages, with wins against Grange, Shane O’Neill’s and Eire Og before dealing with the task of Crossmaglen IIs in the Quarter Finals. A replay of their Round 1 clash with Grange was next in the Semi Final but the outcome would be much different this time around.

With 10 minutes remaining, Clan na Gael led by 4 but lost out by the minimum in dramatic fashion and with Grange winning the Championship, they move into Senior next year in place of Clan na Gael. Clans must start from scratch in 2020 and promotion will once again be the target and perhaps they can secure it through the Championship route. 

St Paul’s:

Just missed out on promotion to the Senior ranks, coming third in the league, but as the championship unfolded it turned out to be Grange who will accompany Mullaghbawn in Division 1B next season. St Paul’s would have been happy with their league form however, winning 8 of their 14 games.

Victories over Clan na Gael (twice) and Mullaghbawn were St Paul’s best results through the course of the league and demonstrated to the rest of the Division that they could compete with the top teams in the Intermediate Championship. Their league form would have given them plenty of confidence heading into the business end of the season.

Group three in the Intermediate Championship was fiercely competitive and St Paul’s, An Port Mor and Tir na nOg all finished with identical records, Played 3, Won 2, Lost 1 and  all finished the round robin stages on 4 points. St Paul’s qualified for the Quarter Finals however, on a better scoring average.

There, they would meet Shane O’Neill’s and they’re Championship run would come to an end with The Camlough side shading a close contest, 0-15 to 0-13. St Paul’s showed encouraging signs of their talents in 2019 and will be hoping county star Andrew Murnin can keep fit to fight for Intermediate glory next season.

Whitecross:

After being relegated from Division 1B last season, Whitecross would have set their goal at an immediate return to the Senior Championship. That’s not how their season played out however and they will be disappointed with their league standings at the end of the season and their poor championship form.

They tied on points with Clan na Gael and St Peter’s with 16 points each and finished 4th in the 2A table on scoring average. They did secure two big wins over St Paul’s throughout the year but it wasn’t enough to allow the Whitecross men to push on for promotion back to the Senior Division.

They would have been happy with their championship group but as it worked out they failed to secure any wins, picking up their solitary point in their round two draw with Carrickcruppen. While both Keady and Wolfe Tones got the better of Whitecross to see them placed 3rd in the group and qualify for the playoffs.

There they ran into eventual Intermediate Champions Grange and certainly held their own for the opening 30 minutes, trailing 0-9 to 1-8 at the interval. Disaster struck in the second period however and Grange ran out comfortable 1-17 to 0-9 winners to end Whitecross’ involvement in the championship.

Tir na nOg:

A poor start to the 2019 league really damaged any hopes Tir na nOg had of competing at the top of the Division 2A table as they won just once in their opening five games. They did recover to earn 14 points, finishing in 5th position, just one point ahead of relegated Wolfe Tones, who they drew with in the second last round.

Incredibly the Portadown side defeated an in-form Clan na Gael both home and away while also overcoming St Paul’s in their first win of the season. However, inconsistency affected their momentum and they failed to make home advantage count, with Shane O’Neill’s, Mullaghbawn and Whitecross all picking up away points.

Tir na nOg faced a difficult and evenly matched group three in the Championship and defeated both An Port Mor and Ballyhegan to earn a playoff spot against promoted side Tullysaran. With a chance to make the quarter finals, Tir na nOg made sure of the victory and won 2-15 to 1-14.

With Wolfe Tones relegated, Tir na nOg were slight favourites for their quarter final clash, however that’s not how it played out and the Tones winning by 6, and the Portadown men failing to live up to the tempo of Championship football. Once again they will look to fight for a top four spot next season and will need to find an improved level of form to do so.

Shane O’Neill’s:

The Camlough side will look back on 2019 as what might have been. They suffered an uneven league campaign before bursting into life for the Championship and only for the concession of two late frees in the Intermediate Championship Final, they could find themselves preparing for Senior football next season.

A big win on the opening day of the season against Wolfe Tones was vital (5-14 to 1-9) as Shane O’Neill’s just about finished ahead of the Tones. Although both finishing on 13 points after 14 games, Shane O’Neill’s remained in the Division 2A league due to a superior scoring difference, with the Tones relegated.

Losses to Grange and Clan na Gael meant it would be the playoff route for Shane O’Neill’s and Keady stood between them and a quarter final place. Two goals from All-Star Paul O’Rourke helped the Camlough men on their way and they soon found themselves in the last four with a two point win over St Paul’s.

The crossbar came to the rescue in the semi final, with Wolfe Tones striking it twice in the dying minutes to see the Shane’s sneak through by the minimum. With five minutes left in the final, it looked to have been Shane O’Neill’s year but two late frees handed Grange the crown. Shane O’Neill’s will target the Intermediate Championship in 2020 after showing they are good enough at that level and will look for a better league campaign.

Wolfe Tones:

Were desperately unlucky to finish in the bottom two of Division 2A, as they finished level on points with Shane O’Neill’s and just one point behind Tir na nOg, but were relegated due to a poorer scoring average, although they did have a promise string of performances in the Championship, making it to the final four.

Looking back, their heavy defeat to Shane O’Neill’s in round one of the league was crucial, as it was these points that denied Tones the chance to finish ahead of Shane O’Neill’s. They did enjoy good wins across the league however over Middletown (twice), Whitecross (twice), Clan na Gael and Mullaghbawn.

Entered into a difficult group, Wolfe Tones showed an increase in form to go top of Group B, with three good wins over Whitecross, Carrickcruppen and Keady, their slim one point victory in round three away to Whitecross guiding them to the number one position in the table.

Next up was Tir na nOg in the Championship Quarter Final and bar a few glitches, Tones were by far the better side on show. Their 6 point victory sent them to the semi’s where two missed goal chances denied them the chance to appear in the Intermediate Final, although they demonstrated they can certainly be a force next season.

Middletown:

In truth, Middletown’s year never got start and they will be glad to see the back on a horrible 2019. Gaining just 4 points in the league saw them sit at the foot of Division 2A at the end of the league while their Championship performances didn’t make for good viewing either as they failed to claim any points in the group stages.

They secured their first win of the season in round three of the league with a 3-5 to 0-11 victory over Tir na nOg but failed to claim any further points until round seven when they surprisingly halted Mullaghbawn’s unbeaten run. However, huge defeats to Clan an Gael (twice) and Whitecross showed how far off the pace Middletown were.

In the Championship, they would once again come up against Mullaghbawn, but the result would be much different this time around, with Middletown losing by 2-19 to 0-10 with losses also coming against Crossmaglen IIs and Tullysaran. Middletown will feel more comfortable in Division 2B next season.

Tullysaran:

Topped what was a tough Division 2B and did so impressively, finishing three points above Keady, their nearest challengers, losing just two games throughout their league campaign. They also experienced a decent Championship run, finishing second in their group before being knocked out during the play offs.

Keady and Grange were the only teams to hand out defeats to Tullysaran while An Port Mor done enough to earn a point off the league winners, in their re-fixed round 1 clash. Other than that it was full steam ahead from Tullysaran, who headed for Championship season in great form and with some silverware under their belt.

Tullysaran faced a difficult Group 4 in the Championship with Division 1A winners Mullaghbawn the favourites to top the group while Middletown and Crossmaglen IIs were the other contenders. Two big wins over Middletown and Cross sent Tullysaran through to the play offs, as they finished in second place. 

They faced Tir na nOg who were the better team on the night and the Portadown side made their way to the quarter final with a 4 point victory. Tullysaran will have taken a lot of confidence from their 2019 form and will look to push on again next season and try to show their worth in Division 2A.

Keady:

Back to back promotions signalled a good year for Keady as the 2018 Junior Champions stepped up this season to get themselves promoted to Division 2A for 2020. A great league campaign allowed Keady to build well for the Championship and to reach the play off stages and will hope to build on this progress in 2020.

Keady got off to the perfect start to life in the Intermediate League, beating Carrickcruppen, Cross IIs, Ballyhegan, Eire Og and Grange to sit top of the table before promotion rivals Tullysaran put an end to their run. They went on to win 5 of their remaining 8 league fixtures and finished two points above Grange in third place.

With two wins from three games, Keady enjoyed a positive run in the group stages of the Championship, seeing off Carrickcruppen and Whitecross to guarantee the second spot in the group, with Wolfe Tones sitting top having won all three games.

Shane O’Neill’s proved a step too far for Keady in the playoff round, as Shane O’Neill’s marched into the next stage of the competition with an impressive 4-8 to 0-9 victory. Still, 2019 was a positive for Keady and 2020 will present another challenge as Keady look to consolidate their position in Division 2A.

Grange

What a season 2019 was for Grange, from underperforming in the league to finding their feet come the business end of the season to claim the Intermediate title. They won 8 of their 14 league games but still would have been disappointed in failing to secure promotion to Division 2A, but as things played out, they’ll be in the Senior division in 2020.

Tullysaran handed Grange their first defeat in round three of the league after strong wins over Cross IIs and Carrickcruppen while Keady, Ballyhegan and An Port Mor also came out on top in their league encounters with Grange. Two further draws saw them finish in third place with 18 points.

They were drawn into an incredibly difficult Group One of the Intermediate Championship, with one of the favourites to win the Championship Clan na Gael, Shane O’Neill’s and Eire Og. Grange claimed two wins over Shane O’Neill’s and Eire Og while losing to the Clans in the opening tie.

Wins over Whitecross and Mullaghbawn sent them through to the semis and as fate would have it, Grange met Clan na Gael and Shane O’Neill’s once again. The McKenna brothers were the heroes both days out, Miceal’s late point seeing off Clans while Cathal kicked the winner in the final to claim his side’s first Intermediate title in 26 years.

Ballyhegan:

Just slipped into the top four of Division 2B with one point to spare over An Port Mor, beating Crossmaglen on the last day of the league 2-16 to 2-12 to confirm their place in 4th position. Handed a difficult Championship group and experience a poor time when they failed to gain any points

Their first two wins over Eire Og and An Port Mor got Ballyhegan off to a great start but they were soon halted in their tracks when Keady saw them off 4-11 to 1-4. Ballyhegan went on to win 6 of their remaining 11 games, while also drawing with Grange in round four to end on 17 points in total.

In a group with St Paul’s, An Port Mor and Tir na nOg, Ballyhegan were up against it and were the only team in Group 3 that failed to pick up any points. They suffered three defeats and were knocked out of the Intermediate Championship at the earliest stage.

An Port Mor:

Suffered four defeats throughout their league campaign as well as drawing on four occasions, which hampered their chances of finishing amongst the top four. Had a good Championship run that saw them go agonisingly close to getting to a quarter final but can still be happy with their progress in 2019.

They got off to a rocky start, losing to Ballyhegan in their first game before defeating Crossmaglen while they couldn’t be separated from Carrickcruppen. Good wins over Grange (twice), Eire Og (twice), Ballyhegan and Keady in the final game of the year saw the Blackwater Town men finish on 16 points.

They opened their Championship campaign with a 5 point loss to Tir na nOg but bounced straight back, defeating St Paul’s by two and hammering Ballyhegan 5-18 to 1-13 to enter the play off stage of the competition. They were hugely competitive against Crossmaglen IIs and just lost out by 1-15 to 1-13.

Carrickcruppen:

Finished 6th in the league table but were never going to be in any danger of a relegation battle and were save in the Intermediate Championship for another season. Their Championship displays were poor however and they managed to gain just one point in what was admittedly a difficult group.

Two losses against Keady and Grange meant that Carrickcruppen didn’t pick up their first points of the league campaign until round three where they defeated Eire Og 1-18 to 1-7. They went on to win a further 4 times throughout the campaign and finished the 2019 season on 12 points

Their form didn’t improve much in the round robin stages of the Championship and losses to both Wolfe Tones and Keady meant that Cruppen were up against it if they were to make the play offs. As it turned out, Whitecross were too strong for them in round three and Carrickcruppen left the Championship after three games.

Crossmaglen IIs:

Won only twice in the league, never really standing a chance of avoiding relegation and they will now play their football in the Junior League for next season. They did make the Intermediate Championship quarter finals and were very close to causing an upset and making their way to the semi final.

They suffered several defeats at the beginning of the league, before finally getting their first points on the board, in round 10 with a 4-11 to 2-16 win over Eire Og, although they were in touching distance in some of their defeats with An Port Mor, Carrickcruppen and Keady all seeing Cross off with the minimum to spare.

A win over Middletown more or less guaranteed Crossmaglen a spot in the play offs, and losses to Mullaghbawn and Tullysaran saw The Rangers finish just above Middletown in the group. They went on to scrape past An Port Mor in the play offs before falling by four points at the hands of Clan na Gael.

Eire Og:

Joined Crossmaglen at the foot of the Intermediate League and like The Rangers, never looked like staying in Division 2B. Had a poor year all round in both league and championship and really struggled. Eire Og will look to compete better in 2020 when the play in the Junior League.

Eire Og had a disastrous league, picking up just one win in the whole campaign, losing 13 of their 14 contests, and they were on the wrong side of some heavy defeats. This didn’t do them any favours heading towards the Championship, where their poor form would continue.

Facing a group of Clan na Gael, Grange and Shane O’Neill’s, Eire Og were always up against it and that’s how it played out, as they were handed defeats in all three games, the biggest coming against Grange when they lost 6-23 to 0-11.

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