2019 was a big year for Derrynoose. They reached their first Junior Championship Final in fifteen years and were favourites heading into that game.
Having saw off strong competition in the likes of Belleek and Forkhill on the way, Brian Hamilton’s men looked sure to capture the Sean Quinn Cup.
But they just fell short at the final hurdle, with Collegeland claiming a three-point win on the day to secure the glory, 1-12 to 1-9.
Derrynoose have certainly bounced back in impressive fashion this season and they look like a team on a mission, with Junior triumph in their sights.
A winning streak in the league stretching four game has helped Derrynoose head into the Championship carrying great momentum.
Wins over Killeavy IIs, O’Hanlon’s, Dorsey and St Michael’s Newtown have saw Derrynoose burst ahead of the chasing pack, securing the maximum eight points.
Their unbeaten run suggests they are in incredible form and it’s fair to propose that the current league-leaders are one of the favourites for the Championship.
In saying that, Crossmaglen IIs were a name on many people’s lips before a ball was kicked this year, with a rumoured star-studded line up available.
Personalities of the quality of Rico Kelly and Johnny Hanratty were suggested members of the squad, but neither has played any football this season.
In saying that, the Rangers still have plenty of big-game knowhow, with the former All-Ireland winning captain Paul McKeown in their ranks.
Stephen Finnegan and Francis Hanratty are named among the subs listed in the programme, but they too have All-Ireland medals in their back pockets.
Wearing the managerial bib for the men in black and amber is the experienced Gareth O’Neill and he knows all about winning championship games.
If Crossmaglen are to get through this one and advance to the last four of the competition, they will have to shut down Derrynoose’s dangerman Conor McNally.
McNally was rightfully awarded the Junior Footballer of the Year last season for his heroics in helping Derrynoose reach the showpiece.
He has carried that outstanding form into 2020 and Crossmaglen will have to have their matchups correct in defence.
Davey McCreesh offers good support up front and is another target to hit for Derrynoose on the edge of the square.
The Rangers will also hope to trouble the Derrynoose defence as they possess a sharp forward line capable of causing issues.
Callum Kieran is the go-to man in full-forward and he displayed his talent in their recent championship win over O’Hanlon’s.
This could come down to a shoot-out between the two in-form players in McNally and Kieran, and whoever comes out on top of that battle should ensure their team gets through.
If Crossmaglen can shut down McNally, they will be in with a huge chance of confirming their place in the last four.
But that is easier said than done and McNally proved last year he is the man for the big occasion and he should led his side in to another semi-final.