Finnian Moriarty experienced a successful start to life as Maghery manager, winning the Division 1A league at his first attempt. They got off to a flyer, winning six games on the trot before Killeavy brought an end to their unbeaten run. Ballymacnab doubled Maghery’s woes in round eight when it seemed perhaps that the Lough Shore men were about to lose their nerve, but they regained control and won their next five games to see out the league.
Due to their league form, the 2016 County Champions were tipped by many to battle it out with Crossmaglen for the Gerry Fegan Cup, but Maghery had bigger issues before they would cross that bridge. They gave a lacklustre display against Madden that saw the newly crowned league champions beaten by double scores, 1-9 to 0-6 and it looked like it would be the play off route for Maghery.
But two solid wins Dromintee and Annaghmore meant Maghery headed straight to the quarter finals where they would face off with Cullyhanna. A late Brian Fox goal secured his sides entrance into the last four and it seemed that the league champions were peaking at just the right time.
Crossmaglen stood in the opposite corner and like the opening round against Madden; Maghery limped out of the contest without landing any significant blows. Oisin O’Neill raised two flags to send Maghery crashing out of the championship and Maghery will hope to experience a better championship run next season.
The Rangers were once again crowned county champions in 2019 and captured their 45th title; their second in a row, with a convincing nine point win over Ballymacnab. Crossmaglen played six championship games in total, and only Sarsfields got to within six points of the Armagh Kingpins.
Cross had a mixed league, winning 8 of their 14 ties with Armagh Harps, Maghery (twice) and Silverbridge all getting the better of them. Their championship run started with a simple deconstruction of Clann Eireann and Mel Boyce’s two goals helped them into a 3-18 to 0-9 victory. Sarsfields offered a bigger challenge but couldn’t do enough to gain a draw even though Caolan Skelton rattled the net on three occasions for the Lurgan men.
Ballymacnab posed another step up in class in round three but Crossmaglen gave a dominant first 10 minutes display to give them a 10 point head start. The Nab did fight back to make a game of it but it wasn’t enough to halt The Rangers entrance into the quarter finals. Silverbridge stood in their way but once again Crossmaglen showed their class and ran out comfortable winners with a convincing second half display.
Maghery failed to live up to expectations and Cross held them to just one point in the opening half before powering on to win 2-9 to 0-8. Similar to last year’s final they struggled to get into the game early on and trailed by one goal at the interval but once again their big players stood up to take the Gerry Fegan Cup to Crossmaglen for another season. Kieran Donnelly is still undecided about his future but with Cross’ chances of landing three in a row very high, Donnelly won’t take much convincing.
Overall the Harps will be disappointed with how their 2019 season panned out. Under the watchful eye of new manager Mattie McGleenan, they nailed their first target in capturing a top four spot in the league with two big wins over Killeavy and Maghery in their final two games and they won 50% of their 16 league games this year.
However they failed to reach any level of consistency come championship season, which started off with a one point defeat away to Granemore. They did regroup however and a brilliant second half performance saw them easily dispatch St Peter’s to guarantee at the least a playoff spot.
They went in heavy favourites in their final group game against Silverbridge and with home advantage, the Harps looked sure to get the ‘easier’ draw in the playoffs. However that’s not how the game transpired and even with the aid of four goals they couldn’t contain the Silverbridge attack that hit top form and fell to their second one point defeat of the campaign.
This saw the Harps clash with rivals Ballymacnab for a place in the quarter finals and once again the Harps were on the losing side of a one point defeat and ended their year on a hugely disappointing note. McGleenan has since departed the city club and the Banisteoir bib will be wore by Damian Jordan in 2020, the man who led Collegeland to Junior Championship glory this season, so we could see an improved Harps side next year.
Killeavy seemed like a team that put all their time and effort into getting a good league campaign under their belts and looked to have run out of steam when championship season came calling. They finished in the top four during the league, which was a huge positive but couldn’t reproduce their form in the latter end of the summer.
They came away with 50% win rate during the league and qualified for the top four ahead of Ballymacnab on score difference. They were also the team to hand Maghery their first defeat of the season while they also enjoyed big wins over some of the big hitters in the division, including Ballymacnab, Cullyhanna and Armagh Harps.
They failed to find any spark in the championship and won just once in the group stages against a poor Culloville outfit. All roads led to Crossmaglen where they faced Madden in a winner takes all playoff game and Killeavy never looked like rising to the occasion and limped out of the championship.
Retaining their Division 1A status would have been the goal so it was mission complete in 2019 but there is so much more to come from this youthful Killeavy side. Justin McNulty has stepped away from his management role so there will be a new voice leading the Killeavy charge in 2020.
The Nab failed to replicate their sensational 2018 form and for a while looked in big trouble at the bottom half of the table. They regrouped to deliver a tremendous run to the championship final but once again Crossmaglen proved a step too far and similarly to last season, powered home in the second half to deny Ballymacnab a historic year.
Early league losses to St Patrick’s, Crossmaglen and Maghery appeared to suggest a hangover from a great 2018 season but when the going got tough Ballymacnab came good and defeated both Dromintee and St Patrick’s to stay clear of the relegation zone and almost crept into the top four.
Their presence in the bottom four meant a harder championship draw was almost guaranteed and that’s how it transpired when they were drew in the same group as Crossmaglen. Cross sent The Nab to the play offs although they were given opportunities to display their quality with good wins over Sarsfields and Clann Eireann.
Big victories over city sides Harps and Pearse Ogs led them to the semi final stage where they needed extra time to see off old rivals Granemore. The Nab need no reminder of the county final and with Bernie Murray taking charge for a third season, they will hope it’s third time lucky and finally land their first Senior Championship title.
With only 5 league victories under their belt and a playoff round exit from the Championship, Dromintee will be disappointed in their season. Their league campaign got off to a disastrous start as they failed to pick up a single point in their opening four games, beating Cullyhanna in round 5 to secure their first win of the season.
This of course left them struggling for the rest of the campaign and they found themselves in a relegation battle at the end of the league. A defeat to Ballymacnab in round 13 meant they would have to travel to Silverbridge and win on the final day of the season, which they did successfully and they remain in Division 1A for at least another year.
They were drawn into a difficult Championship group but picked up two points on the first day out with a three point win over Annaghmore, and with Madden beating Maghery the group was completely open. But Maghery bounced back at the expense of Dromintee who saw themselves on the wrong end of a 4-11 to 0-10 result.
They did secure their second win of the campaign against Madden and set up a playoff date against Cullyhanna but two St Patrick’s goals meant Dromintee crashed out of the Championship. 2020 will be a big year for Dromintee who are a team in transition, and they will once again attempt to stay in the top division.
It was a seriously tough year for Cullyhanna and their new manager Stephen Reel, who is now faced with the challenge of rallying his troops to try and bounce back from relegation. They only won 4 of their 14 league games and failed to put two wins back to back or build any momentum throughout the league.
In 2018 St Pat’s just missed out on securing the League title, losing out on head to head to Ballymacnab and it was the same side who sealed their fate this year, defeating the travelling Cullyhanna men 2-16 to 2-13 on the final day of the league. Cullyhanna could have no complaints as they failed to find the spark that led them so close to the title last year.
An opening round win over Culloville saw their championship run get off to a good start but a disastrous performance against the Ogs meant they would have to go the playoff route to reach the latter end of the championship. Wins over Killeavy and Dromintee sent Cullyhanna through to the last eight where they would face league champs Maghery.
St Patrick’s had every chance in the game but a Brian Fox goal in the last minute meant it was Maghery who qualified for the last four. St Pat’s recovered well from a their poor league form to get a decent championship run but with some of the older boys yet to commit for next year and Ross McQuillan now gone to Australia it could be a long 2020 for Cullyhanna.
2019 was always going to be a tough year for Silverbridge and so it proved as they were sent straight back down to Division 1B after gaining promotion 12 months previous. They lost 10 of their 14 league games although can be happy with their effort and results in the championship as they unexpectedly reached the quarter finals.
They did achieve some notable victories in the league, beating St Patrick’s and Ballymacnab as they attempted to remain in the division but the most surprising was their 14 point victory away to County Champions Crossmaglen, however their failure to secure a result on the last day against Dromintee meant they would play their football in 1B next year.
Silverbridge found themselves in a difficult championship group with two away games against St Peter’s and Armagh Harps while they hosted Granemore. Surprisingly they lost their only home game but picked up maximum points on the road and their round three win over Armagh Harps was there most impressive.
They scrapped over the line against Sarsfields in a game they completely dominated, leading by 13 points at one stage in the second half but allowed Sarsfields to rally and leave it a much closer game at the final whistle. Cross ended the Bridge’s year in the quarter final and the goal for Silverbridge will be to bounce straight back up to the top division next season.