Ballyhegan and Clann Eireann IIs lock horns on Saturday in this year’s Junior Football Championship decider.
Both sides had to come through tough scrapes and repel second half comebacks in their respective semi-final encounters to ensure entry into the showpiece. And now, both are 60 minutes away from getting their hands on the Sean Quinn Cup.
Ballyhegan will represent the Orchard County in the provincial championship, as seconds teams cannot compete. But they’ll want to go through to Ulster as Armagh champions and carry that momentum through.
And truth be told, Barry Murphy’s side probably are slight favourites to do just that. They competed in a higher grade throughout the league, coming second in Division 3A behind Clonmore, who they saw off in the semi-final.
In James McCormack, Ballyhegan have the most prolific scorer in the competition. The nippy corner forward has racked up an outstanding personal haul of 6-27 so far in the championship.
And he’s not on his own either. Peter McGrane, a member of Kieran McGeeney’s Armagh panel, James McCann, Mark Hughes and stand-in skipper Paul McQuade have all been in eye-catching form.
In the absence of captain Jack Rafferty, who’s currently out injured, the rest of the side has had to step up and they’ve done just that, especially after a disappointing first round defeat to Thomas Davis.
Ballyhegan bounced back superbly well to see off Dorsey and Mullabrack in the group stages. They beat Clady in the playoffs, Lissummon after extra time in the quarter-final and rivals Clonmore two weeks ago.
Clann Eireann IIs path
Clann Eireann IIs have concurred a difficult path themselves and having made the jump this year by starting a seconds team, they’ll be keen to cap a fine first season off with some silverware.
They earned promotion to Division 3A. They also claimed top spot in their champions group with two wins over Division 3A opposition Eire Og and Division 3B champions An Port Mor.
During the knockout stages Clann Eireann IIs overcame Killeavy IIs by the narrowest of margins and survived a second half onslaught against Thomas Davis in the semi-final.
Ethan McKenna, who limped off at half time two weeks ago, has been leading the charge for the Lurgan lads. McKenna netted in both their group games and has recorded 3-10 throughout their unbeaten run.
James French and Rogan McVeigh complete a dangerous, score-hungry half forward line. Conor Bell, a Senior Championship winning midfielder in 2021, and Johnny Torode form an experienced centerfield pairing.
Captain Oscar McKeagney has led the team forward from his full back position. Tom Turbitt, younger brother of Armagh’s attacking ace Conor, has had a great campaign up to this point.
There’s lots of attacking talent on show and that should make for an interesting and exciting Junior final. It’s sure to go right down to the wire and from the outside, it’s almost impossible to call a winner.