It’s the masters up against the apprentices. Armagh kingpins Crossmaglen take on championship final newbies Granemore to decide the destination of the Gerry Fegan Cup.
It’s been three years since the Rangers last climbed the steps of the Athletic Grounds. While their wait won’t receive any sympathy from Granemore, it is somewhat of a famine.
And for the first time in a long time, Stephen Kernan’s men will be carrying some baggage into this one.
Last season, they became the first Cross team since 1944 to lose two county finals in a row. Crossmaglen have never lost three finals on the trot.
There is pressure and expectation surrounding Cross. Unlike years gone by, there are a number of players within their ranks that have yet to pick up a county medal.
And then you have the older guard of Aaron Kernan and Jamie Clarke, who have All-Ireland medals tucked away in their back pocket.
For Granemore, they’ve already made history as their win over Killeavy secured their place in the senior decider for the first time. The fortuitous second half goal from stalwart Tony McClelland paved the way for a day to remember.
Jason O’Neill has been their top marksman through the championship and for the last number of years. He heads into the game having scored 0-14 across three outings, but it’s their defence that has got them to this stage.
Granemore have yet to concede a goal in the championship. Pearse Og, Mullaghbawn and Killeavy have all tried and failed. That’s down to the defensive structure Niall McAleenan has put in place and also some of the individual quality they have back there.
Ross Finn and Kieran Doyle are members of Kieran McGeeney’s Armagh panel, and both were exceptional against Killeavy. Karl McQuaid has been a real addition since joining from Emyvale while Michael King has been in great form.
But they haven’t faced the firepower that Crossmaglen can provide. Cross showed against Maghery that they have scorers all over the park.
The inside threat of Cian McConville, Jamie Clarke and Rian O’Neill will cause plenty of headaches. But the youngsters like Ronan Fitzpatrick and Caolan Finnegan hold huge scoring potential as well.
It’s the unstoppable force coming up against the immovable object. While Granemore will have a plan in place to stifle Crossmaglen, Kernan’s men will have too many fires to put out and should secure their 46th championship title.