Acid test for the Clanns
Division 2 champions Clann Eireann will face their biggest test of the season so far when they clash with a bang on form Madden side in the Intermediate Championship semi-final on Friday night.
The Lurgan side will be hoping for third time lucky against the mid Armagh men who lowered their colours twice this season.
Madden, who have been highly impressive this year under the management of former Fermanagh and St. Galls goalkeeper Ronan Gallagher, has his side playing to a high degree of consistency.
Having been beaten twice this year by their opponents Clann Eireann boss Kieran Robinson told the Mail that he can select from a fully fit squad.
“For the first time this season we are at full strength. We had a number of lads away and some of the players were carrying injuries, while cautious we believe we are in with a shout.”
Clann Eireann, who were recently crowned Division 2 champions, regrouped having lost to An Port Mor in the league, and although they were beaten by Madden in league and championship encounters this year their manager believes that those games will have no bearing on this sudden death encounter.
Kieran Robinson said, “Both ourselves and Madden were missing players when we met in the league and when we played in the championship we lost two of our players through black cards in the early stages yet lost narrowly. The semi-final will be seen as a one off game and as far as we are concerned we are in a good position to give a good account of ourselves.”
Having come through tight victories in recent rounds against both An Port Mor and most recently against Clan na Gael, Clann Eireann will be keen to book a final place against either Whitecross or Grange, two sides which would also have tested the Lurgan men.
Kieran added, “It wouldn’t have mattered who we played in the semi-final, I believe that the four teams who are left are there on merit, had we met Grange or Whitecross we would have to prepared for the game the exactly the same way as we are doing for Madden, but it is always nice to see a full squad available particularly at a crucial time of the season.”
Clann Eireann up until last Sunday were the top scorers in all four divisions of the Armagh Football Leagues, until Crossmaglen hit seven goals against Wolfe Tones.
The Shore Road side this season while being relatively tight at the back have been built on mobility, pace and an abundance of youth. The Lurgan side recently won the All County Under 16 title and their participation in the Division 1 Minor semi final this week would emphasise the clubs potential for further improvement.
Conor Bell will again pull on the captain’s arm band for the semi, and the skipper will be supported by the experienced Ryan Henderson, Mark Beattie, David McKernan and Declan Leatham who is one of the sides unsung heroes.
The sprinkling of youth available to Kieran Robinson emulates from talented underage sides which have produced players like Jack Wilson, Shay Heffron, Johnny Tarode, James McDade, and John Magee, the growing in stature engine room player Chris McCaffrey is having a good season and former Armagh player Brendan McCarron is a classy defender.
Although Madden had four goals to spare over St. Peter’s in their quarter final win, had the Whites taken their opportunities in the first quarter rather in opting for easy points they would certainly have ran the Mid Armagh men a lot closer.
Ronan Gallagher’s side while not being ultra defensive employ a clever policy of resting players during games, they are particularly good at covering for players who attack down the flanks and have a high ratio of scorers in the side, while it would be unwise to underestimate the other semi finalists it could be suggested that the champions will come from the winners of the Clann Eireann against Madden game. The Lurgan side are attempting to emulate St. Paul’s who in 2014 completed a league and championship double..
The acid test for Kieran Robinson’s side will be against a Madden side who may just fall short in their attempt to reach the Intermediate final.