There’s plenty of action to look forward from the IFC this weekend as the competition gets underway on Friday evening.
Belleek v St Patrick’s – Sat 19 Aug – 5.30pm
For years these two sides competed in completely different championships but kick off their IFC campaigns against each other on Saturday.
Cullyhanna were previously a top contender at senior level and are among the favourites for the IFC title this year.
Mickey Murray, Tony Donnelly and Sean Connell have been major additions. They’ve also been lifted by the return of their county men, Aidan Nugent, Jason Duffy and Ross McQuillan.
Belleek fought long and hard to get over the line at Junior level and finally ticked that box two seasons ago.
They’ve more than held their own in Division 2B, being on the verge of promotion in the last two years.
Callum O’Neill is the main man for Shane Quinn’s side. Up front, they’ll look to the McParland’s, James and Mark, along with Drew McVerry.
Middletown v Tullysaran – Sun 20 Aug- 2pm
Middletown experienced a difficult league campaign and ended up suffering relegation back to Division 3A.
They only picked up one win this season during the league, defeating Derrynoose by one-point in round eight.
They’ll be keen to make home advantage count. They’ll look to the likes of Niall Geoghegan, Marty Moan and Sean Og McGuinness.
Tullysaran on the other hand have been knocking on the door of the IFC for the past number of years.
The semi-finals have proven their stumbling block and a place in the last four will be their initial target.
John Devine’s side have quality forwards with Gavin Conlon, Mark McKeever and Eddie Mallon. They’ll cause problems for any defence.
Annaghmore v Pearse Og – Fri 18 Aug – 7pm
It’s not long since these sides were competing in the top level of Armagh football, although they never faced off in the SFC.
Both can call upon some experienced campaigners, but there are youthful talent for both sides to lean on as well.
The Duffy brothers, Paul and Anto, are back for the Ogs, who claimed a top four finish in Division 2A.
Ruairi Duffy is one of their go-to players along with Conor McNicholl, Sean Sutton, Shea Freeman, Vinny Brady.
Annaghmore likewise will look to the MacIomhair brothers, Oisin and Ciaran along with Matthew McNiece.
Tomas McCormack is on Kieran McGeeney’s wider Armagh panel while Connor Cullen is a scoring threat.
Whitecross v Tir na nOg – Sun 20 Aug – 4pm
Whitecross just avoided relegation to Junior, and they’ll face Tir na nOg next year as the Portadown men were demoted to Division 2B.
They spent most of the campaign without their star man Oisin Conaty, who was involved with Armagh.
But on his return, his impact was immediate and Conaty will take up most of the focus from the Whitecross defence.
The hosts have their own county man back in the fold. Mark Shields, who missed out the entire year through injury, came on in the final league game.
He’ll be a massive boost for Phelim McGuinness’ side, who’ll be without Neil McSherry through suspension.
But Cathal McSherry has returned this season and has been in fine scoring form in front of the posts.
Keady v Culloville – Fri 18 Aug – 7pm
Friday evening presents a clash of the champions as Division 2B winners Keady host Division 2A holders Culloville.
The Blues had to do it the hard way as well. All three of their final games against St Patrick’s, Tullysaran and Pearse Ogs were away from home.
But they put together a run of three in a row to collect the league title and earn promotion to senior football.
Niall Rowland is still the main man, but they have youth on their side. James King, Taidgh O’Neill, Dara Quinn and Fergal Kieran are all important players.
Keady earned the Division 2B league title by winning ten of their 14 outings, while just losing twice all year.
Simon McGeary’s side won all of their home league games, which will be a good omen ahead of Friday’s game.
Cross II v Wolfe Tones – Sun 20 Aug- 2pm
Cross IIs gathered some momentum towards the head of the league to survive the drop down to Junior.
A final round victory against Whitecross, on home turf, was enough to ensure their place in Division 2B next year.
The have some vital experience in their ranks with Rico Kelly and Johnny Murtagh leading the way.
Wolfe Tones will join them in Division 2B following their relegation and Peter Nugent’s side have struggled for form all year.
The loss of their keeper, Callan Duffin, at the start of the season was a major blow for the Tones.
But they still have talent in the shape of Caolan Skelton, Jamie Haughey, Johnathan McCarron and Pauddy Judge.
Forkhill v Carrickcruppen – Fri 18 Aug – 7pm
Forkhill were relegated from Intermediate football via the league, but that won’t dent their championship ambitions.
With county men Stephen Sheridan and Jemar Hall to call upon, they still have serious quality in their ranks.
The likes of Cormac Toner, Eoghan Roe O’Neill, Owen Donaghy and Barry Shannon make up the supporting cast.
Carrickcruppen are back in the IFC having won the title just two years ago and hold much of the same squad.
Blaine Hughes was a great addition throughout the league, having dropped off the Armagh panel at the start of the season.
County panellist Eoin Woods will once again be the star while Richard Keenan and Jack Cunningham form a formidable midfield pairing.
Derrynoose v St Paul’s – Sun 20 Aug- 4pm
Derrynoose and St Paul’s both had much different championship final day experiences to conclude last season.
St Paul’s lost the IFC decider in heart-breaking circumstances, conceding a goal in the dying seconds to Shane O’Neill’s.
Derrynoose on the other hand were comfortable winners against Lissummon in the Junior showpiece.
They’ve certainly held their own in Division 2B and the return of Conor McNally to full fitness is a major boost.
St Paul’s remain as the top contenders for the IFC throne and Ronan Clarke’s men have been knocking on the door for a few years.
They will be without the suspended Peadar Nash, while a fully fit Andrew Murnin will be an incredible option.