By Niall McCoy
Crossmaglen v Ballymacnab
(Sunday, Crossmaglen, 2pm)
CROSSMAGLEN and Ballymacnab meet in a repeat of last year’s final with a quarter-final spot the prize on offer for the victor.
It has been a relatively straight-forward group for both sides so far, although Sarsfields did push Cross a little closer than expected last time out. As a result, Ballymacnab have a better scoring difference so a draw will do for Bernie Murray’s side.
Ryan Kennedy has recently returned from injury for the ‘Nab while Gavin McParland and the Grugan brothers, Jack and Rory, have linked up beautifully over the last few weeks.
“It’s a hard game but it’s one we are looking forward to,” said Cross manager Kieran Donnelly who has reported no fresh injury concerns.
James Morgan is a long-term absentee though and will miss the entire championship.
That does leave a hole at the back but with the likes of the in-form Mel Boyce, Rian O’Neill and Cian McConville driving them on, Cross should have too much firepower.
Clann Eireann v Sarsfields
(Sunday, Clann Eireann, 2pm)
CLANN Eireann enter this match with two defeats and a scoring difference of -43, but they can still in theory win the Armagh Championship.
That’s the beauty of the group structure, or problem depending on your view on it, and a win here will see them advance to the play-offs for a clash with Silverbridge or Armagh Harps.
The Lurgan side have produced nothing of real note so far, but there were some promising periods such as their first 29 minutes against Cross before they were hit by a goal on the half-time whistle.
That was followed up with a very poor outing against Ballymacnab when they shipped 5-20 with Ethan Kearney’s four points at the other end about the best of their resistance.
Kieran Robinson’s Sarsfields can take a fair bit of confidence heading into this clash between two teams that know each other pretty well.
They played a fairly open game against Ballymacnab and were in contention for three quarters until Niall Kerr unfortunately deflected Gavin McParland’s shot into his own net.
They then staged an excellent second-half comeback against Crossmaglen with Caolan Skelton helping himself to a hat-trick.
This should be one of the games of the weekend and home advantage may just see Clann Eireann get over those two heavy beatings.
Verdict: Clann Eireann
Armagh Harps v Silverbridge
(Sunday, Abbey Park, 2pm)
NEITHER side can catch group leaders Granemore while both are guaranteed play-off spots. However the game carries some significance as the winner will avoid a play-off against Crossmaglen or Ballymacnab and would instead have a potentially much easier game against Clann Eireann or Sarsfields.
The Bridge were at their ruthless best in their opening win against St Peter’s but the coughed up a raft of goal chances in their one-point loss to Granemore in round two.
Their inexperience told with some of their shot selections but if they can click then they have every chance of winning this game.
John Toner’s and Mattie McGleenan’s side were also very wasteful in their one-point loss to the St Mary’s outfit but they bounced back with a comfortable win over St Peter’s.
Gareth Swift missed a penalty for the second consecutive game, but it at least went over the bar this time.
It mattered little in the end though with a series of consecutive points just after half-time setting them up for victory.
Granemore v St Peter’s
(Sunday, Granemore, 2pm)
GRANEMORE know they are in the quarter-finals with a game to spare – a fantastic achievement from Eamon Kavanagh’s team.
The manager named 32 players in his championship squad and some of those yet to see action could be in line to feature here.
Their good form has been based on great play by powerful midfield duo Brendan Boylan and Tony McClelland while Kieran Toner has impressed rotating between full-forward and midfield.
St Peter’s knew that qualification was unlikely after their heavy opening day loss to Silverbridge and manager Ronan McAlinden will already be looking to next season.
With that in mind we can expect an experimental line-out from the Whites and it’s highly unlikely Niall McConville will be risked. For Granemore this will be a tune-up session before their last-eight clash in two weeks’ time.
Maghery v Dromintee
(Saturday, Maghery, 6pm)
DROMINTEE’S last win over Maghery came in a league match in 2015, but they will be hopeful that they can end that wait this Saturday.
John Kennedy has been without a raft of starters due to injury, but they battled to a win over Annaghmore while Niall Courtney’s composed finish secured an impressive 1-14 to 0-11 win over Madden last time out.
Dromintee started that match without two of their county men, Darren McKenna and Aaron Boyle. McKenna came on late on and could return to midfield here but the game is likely to come too soon for Boyle who had to leave Annaghmore on crutches after injuring his foot late on.
Maghery have only managed 0-18 in their two games to date and Finnian Moriarty will be expecting a much better scoring return here.
They opened with a disappointing six-point loss to Madden but then earned a four-point win over neighbours Annaghmore.
They know that a big win will be likely if they are to top the group. They should get the points, but maybe not by the margin they would hope for.
Madden v Annaghmore
(Saturday, Madden, 6pm)
THE ball is not in Madden’s court after their loss to Dromintee last week but they still remain in a great position.
The Raparees will be confident that Maghery can do them a favour and win at home to the St Patrick’s. If that’s the case it will come down to scoring difference and Madden can put up a big tally at home here.
Niall Grimley pointed inside 10 seconds against Dromintee but Aaron McKay blotted him out from there. He’ll be determined to get back to the form that caused Maghery big problems in round one.
Annaghmore have lost players as the championship has progressed and they are likely to opt for an ultra defensive gameplan here.
Technically they can still make the play-offs, but it’s extremely unlikely.
Killeavy v Cullyhanna
(Saturday, Killeavy, 6pm)
THIS game was expected to be the one that decided who tops the group but after both suffered losses to Pearse Og, it’s simply about deciding where they enter the play-offs.
Maghery, Dromintee and Madden are the possible options and with no clear path about who plays who, both sides will just have to try and win and hope the other group throws up the fixture they want.
Both sides like to play a defensive structure and Killeavy are particularly strong at home with Caolan McConville and Kyle Mallon tasked with breaking the lines from deep.
Cullyhanna have an over-reliance on Aidan Nugent for scores but they are strong at the back with Ciaran McKeever sweeping.
They may lose a low-scoring affair though.
Pearse Og v Culloville
(Saturday, Pearse Og Park, 6pm)
PEARSE Og boss Shane McConville has admitted that he’s not sure what to do here but is falling on the side of going full tilt despite already being guaranteed top spot.
The Ogs have impressed greatly in their wins over Killeavy and Cullyhanna, Vinny Brady a rock at the back, Paul Duffy bringing plenty of energy and Marc Cullen proving elusive up front. They will enjoy this game knowing that the work has already been done.
Culloville have not looked out of their depth in senior football this year despite the work of talented manager Paul McShane.
They pushed Cullyhanna hard in round one but the floodgates opened against Killeavy when they went down to 14 men and they eventually conceded six goals.
Verdict: Pearse Og