FORMER Ulster and Armagh star Dennis Stevenson laments the fact that former provincial kingpins Clan na Gael will compete in the Armagh Intermediate Championship this season.
The Derrytrasna man, who played on Armagh teams with former Clan’s greats like Jim McKerr, Jimmy Smyth and Colm McKinstry and competed against the Lurgan blues when they were dominating Armagh and Ulster football, says he is sad to see the Clan’s compete in the Intermediate series, but stressed it may not be a bad move.
Dennis said, “There was always something exciting about watching or playing against great Clan na Gael teams of the past. Personally I was a bit taken aback when I was told that they would be playing Intermediate football this season. “However, on the practical side of things the facts would suggest that the Clans would be better re-building from a lower base, which can renew confidence particularly among the younger players.”
Heavy Senior Championship defeats over the past number of seasons have forced a re-think at Davitt Park which would also have been influenced by last seasons relegation from the top flight, but Dennis believes that opinions among Blues supporters would vary over their sides strategy.
“When my own club Sarsfields moved to the Intermediate Championship series there were a lot of our supporters who still believed it was a backward step,” added Dennis. “Things will be no different at Davitt Park. Some Clan’s people will say the senior championship is where they belong, but from my experience of what the Sarsfields gained I think Clan na Gael have taken a brave step.”
Although Dennis was on the Trasna team which won an Armagh Senior title back in 1990 he said that an Intermediate title can create a new momentum in a club. “Several clubs have benefited from a move to the Intermediate series, it can bring increased revenue, a sense of community, and most importantly give the younger players in a club room to mature. I would love to see the Clan’s back on top at senior level. If they have taken a reality check it could be the first step to recovery>”
Over the past three seasons in particular the Clans were well capable of winning the Armagh Under 21 Championship but didn’t get the rub of the green. Their young players will be pushing for a Championship and League double this season which they are well capable of achieving and Dennis Stevenson was quick to highlight the benefits of securing a winning run at a lower grade. “*Ironically until Crossmaglen are truly challenged for senior honours several other clubs will be looking at what is best for them under the circumstances. Maghery, Sarsfields and clubs like Kileavey all gained success and confidence from moving down a grade and I would suggest to Clan na Gael that they have nothing to be apprehensive about. In a short space of time they will be re-grouped and ready to challenge for senior honours again.”
Ironically the last time the Blues won the senior title back in 1994 Crossmaglen were struggling to gain a foothold in the series, maybe a new dawn can arrive for the Francis Street side as they embark on a new beginning.
n St Paul’s GFC pre-season training has commenced.
Mondays Ages (4-10s) 6:00 pm to 7:00pm.
Tuesdays (Under14s) 6:30 pm to 7:30pm.
Thursdays (Under16 & 18s)) 7:00pm to 8:00pm
Fridays (Under12s) 7:00pm to 8:00pm