The SFC kicks off this weekend with the opening round of the group stages and there’s some interesting ties to look forward to.
Dromintee v Killeavy – Sun 20 Aug – 1pm
Dromintee earned promotion back to the top tier at the first time of asking, following last year’s relegation.
They were plagued with injuries in 2022 but with a better deck to pick from this year, Kieran Quinn’s side are in fine form.
Aaron McKay’s match up with Ciaron O’Hanlon could be a big decider in this one. Jack McArdle, Cathal McKenna and Darren McKenna are others who stand out for Dromintee.
Tommy Coleman’s Killeavy finished inside the top four of Division 1A, tied on 17 points with Crossmaglen and Madden.
O’Hanlon is a huge addition to the squad after over a year on the sidelines and will lead their attack.
Caolan McConville has also got over a nightmare few years of injuries, while youngster Oisin King is also on the mend.
Maghery v Ballymacnab – Sun 20 Aug- 4pm
A repeat of last year’s quarter-final which went right down to the wire and needed extra to decide a winner.
Maghery scraped through by the minimum of margins and home advantage could be huge this weekend.
The likes of Aidan Forker, Ciaran Higgins, Stefan Forker and Stephen Cusack offer a serious supply of quality and experience.
Eamon Robinson’s side do have a couple of fresher faces to look out for, most notably Sean Hackett and Padraig O’Keefe.
For Ballymacnab, who were relegated from Division 1A on the final day, it’s the tried and trusted that stand out.
Rory Grugan remains the main man in maroon, ably assisted by the likes of Ryan Kennedy and Gavin McParland.
Grange v Granemore – Sun 20 Aug – 2.15pm
Last year’s beaten finalists Granemore clung onto their Division 1A status with a last round draw against Ballymacnab.
They’ve recalled 2008 Ulster champion Kieran Toner to the panel this year and he enjoyed a great league campaign.
Jason O’Neill remains their main scoring threat, assisted up top by the likes of Louis Hughes and Marty Carr.
Grange are without their main man Ethan Rafferty, who will miss out on the remainder of the season through injury.
Chris Rafferty’s men will look to Justin Kieran, Miceal McKenna and Ben Toal to share the scoring burden.
Grange were relegated from Division 1B this season, so must win the SFC to hold on to their senior status.
St Peter’s v Clann Eireann – Sun 20 Aug – 6pm
Division 1A champions and 2021 Senior Championship winners kickstart their campaign with an all-Lurgan affair.
Ruairi Lavery’s side have been in great form this season. Their league ambitions were boosted with the return of Conor Turbitt, Tiernan Kelly and Barry McCambridge.
The return of Ryan Owens has been a big addition, while Ryan Henderson and Conor McConville are other crucial members of the team.
St Peter’s experienced a decent league campaign in Division 1B, finishing in third place behind Silverbridge and Dromintee.
Former Antrim manager Frank Fitzsimmon’s took charge this season and has the whites in good spirits.
The old guard of Aaron Findon and Niall McConville are still doing the business and remain the go-to players.
Silverbridge v Madden – Fri 18 Aug – 7pm
Division 1B winners Silverbridge host Madden on Friday evening and the pair kickstart the Senior Championship for 2023.
The ‘Bridge, with former Meath coach Colm Nally in charge, will look to the likes of Jarly Og Burns to lead the charge.
They have a few other notable names, like 2009 All-Ireland winner Pete Carragher and this years Armagh u20 captain Sean Conlon.
Madden, who enjoyed a decent league campaign themselves, had a number of players involved in the county set up this season.
Niall Smith, Joe Sheridan, and Conor Grimley saw game time in the McKenna Cup while Darragh McMullan was also involved.
Niall Grimley missed out on most of the year through injury and this week may come too early for him. But he’ll be back to play some part in the campaign.
Shane O’Neill’s v Armagh Harps – Sat 19 Aug – 5.30pm
2022 Intermediate Championship winners Shane O’Neill’s suffered relegation back down to Division 2A.
But with their county contingent of Greg McCabe along with Connaire and Ciaran Mackin back in the fold, they’ll eye up a few scalps.
Their forward division is full of scoring potential, with Paul O’Rourke and Ruairi O’Brien the main men up top.
For the Harps, they’ll look to the experienced heads of Joe McElroy and Declan McKenna to lead the way.
But they have youth on their side as well with the likes of Luke McKeever, Tadgh Grimley and Cathal Agnew.
The 2017 SFC winners will be favourites to win this one, but heading to Camlough makes it a potential banana skin.
Sarsfields v Mullaghbawn – Sat 19 Aug – 4pm
Mullaghbawn caused the upset of the season in 2022 when they beat then champions Clann Eireann in round one.
But they head to Sarsfields without the injured Eoghan McDonnell and the suspended Declan Loye.
Peter McDonnell’s side will rely on Eddie English and Shea Loye to do the majority of the scoring up front.
Sarsfields are always difficult to beat at home and home advantage could be key in the group stages.
Brendan Hughes’ side remain a real goal threat as the McGeown’s, the Stevenson’s and McAlinden’s all able to score.
They finished in the bottom four of the league but were one of only two teams to defeat Division 1B champions Silverbridge.
Clan na Gael v Crossmaglen – Sat 19 Aug – 7pm
This tie tells its own tale and there’s plenty of championship history between Clan na Gael and Crossmaglen.
Meetings have been few and far between in recent years, however. The last meeting came in 2021, when Cross edged out the Clans in the preliminary round of the SFC.
As always, the Rangers begin the campaign as favourites to capture the Gerry Fagan Cup after reclaiming their throne last year.
The return on Oisin O’Neill will be a major boost for Anthony Cunningham’s men as they bid for two in a row.
Clans have plenty of quality in the ranks as well, with county men Shane McPartland and Stefan Campbell the big names.
But younger players such as Callum O’Neill and James Austin are worth keeping an eye on as well.