As the Intermediate Championship swings into action this weekend, many teams will be eyeing up the Atty Hearty Cup. As Grange and Carrickcruppen have shown in recent years, the IFC rarely follows the script.
Several teams lining out this weekend will be missing key personnel that could hamper their chances.
St Paul’s head into the campaign without experienced defender Ruairi Grimes, who is out for the remainder of the season. Grimes picked up a nasty leg injury during the league and will be a big loss for St Paul’s.
Another top contender, Tullysaran, have spent the entire year operating without defenders Brian Kelly and Turlough Lardner. Both men have been key to their defensive plans over the last few years and their absence will be keenly felt.
Tullysaran overcame Tir na nOg and Forkhill last season and Forkhill are another side missing a key player. Paddy Burns has recently switched clubs having transferred to Jim McCrory’s Burren side in Down.
Armagh defender Burns will be a huge loss for Forkhill, who also begin their campaign without the suspended Jemar Hall. Culloville will be minus Cathal Hatzer through suspension as well.
Tir na nOg could be without one of their brightest young talents in the form of Oisin Conaty. A former county minor, Conaty is a gifted soccer player and lines out for Portadown FC in the Irish League.
There are a few teams that have been rocked by retirements with a number of stars stepping away this season. Whitecross have had to deal with the retirement of key forward Cathal McSherry, who hasn’t featured all year.
Ballyhegan have struggled throughout the season and have gone through the entire year without the Courtney brothers Mel and Paul, who both stepped aside before the season started.
Former midfielder Eugene McDonnell called time on his Keady career but picked up the bainisteoir bib and leads the Michael Dwyer’s side. Forward Ryan Donnelly is also out at the minute having picked up a serious ankle injury in a recent hurling game.
It leaves it all very interesting heading into the opening weekend of the Intermediate Championship and as usual there’s sure to be a few surprises along the way.