ONE story has dominated the local club headlines in the north of the county since the Championship draws were made week.
The realisation that former Armagh and Ulster kingpins Clan na Gael will be competing in the Intermediate series has come as a surprise to many, but shifting populations and a lack of success at senior level coupled with the on-going domination of the county by Crossmaglen has caused a growing number of clubs to rethink their positions.
The Francis Street Club last played in the Intermediate series back in 1965 when they were successful, in a year which saw the Blues also winning the All County Minor title and the Juvenile Championship captained by Jim Burns in the competitions inaugural year.
In 1966 the Clans narrowly missed out on gaining promotion to the First Division but in the following years they went on to dominate the county and indeed Ulster. The Blues have pulled a cracker fixture in their first sampling of Intermediate fare for 48 years, in the draw they were pitted against derby rivals Clann Eireann who defeated the Francis Street side twice last season. Two further local derbies were drawn from the Intermediate hat, St Peter’s and Wolfe Tones who met at the semi-final stage last season will cross swords in the first round and St Paul’s will meet Eire Og in what should be a tight run affair, Last weeks Intermediate draws have almost overshadowed the Senior Championship pairings in which Sarsfields will play the winners of St Patrick’s and Whitecross. Division one champions Maghery will play last season’s Intermediate winners Killeavey while Crossmaglen will await the winners of Dromintee and Pearse Ogs. So how will local clubs fare in the intermediate series?
Clann Eireann v Clan na Gael
THE clash of the Clans will pull a huge crowd.
With both sides being relegated last season they would be keen to win the Intermediate series which either side are capable of doing. With Mark Beattie in a player/manager role the Lake Street men will be well fired up for this one. If Clan na Gael can gain confidence on the back of a good league run they might just shade it.
Wolfe Tones v St Peters
THIS particular tie could come be decided by the expertise on the respective touchlines with Mickey Devlin and Oliver Cormican pitting their wits against the wily Whites supremo Steven McVeigh.
Tactics on the day will be interesting to say the least. It took two games to separate the sides last season, but which side will have improved the most? Up front the Whites look a little more vibrant than the Tones and they should sneak through to the next round, however the North Street side before they meet the Tones will have played some tough Division one games which may weaken or strengthen their resolve,
St Paul’s v Eire Og
THESE teams were evenly matched for the first half of last season, but the Teghnevan side with a late spurt almost won the Division 2 title only to be caught at the death by Shane O’Neill’s in a play-off decider.
St Paul’s had a nice shape about them in a lot of their games yet ironically finished the season without the injured Andrew Murnan, As for Eire Og it remains to be seen if they suffer withdrawal symptoms following the departure of their management team of Mickey Devlin and Oliver Cormican, the guess is that St Paul’s have the dynamic to improve more in 2013 than their near neighbours.