CLAN na Gael hope to turn the tables on this weekend’s championship opponents Ballymacnab.
The Blues lost heavily to them last season.
The Clans, who are currently battling relegation, received a setback last week when they lost to Carrickcruppin in the league, but if the former championship kingpins are successful at the weekend then a new confidence can return to Davitt Park.
In the 2011 series, the Blues, who lined out a very young side, showed real courage when defeating Carrickcruppin in the first round but with several high profile absentees on the sidelines they lost heavily in the next round.
The return of Barry O’Hagan recently has given the Blues more shape and determination. The Francis street side, in the first half of this season’s league campaign, were beaten on a few occasions by the odd point and, in one particularly good outing, were unlucky to be held to a draw away to Maghery.
Two former senior championship medallists, namely Kevin O’Hagan and John Campbell, are currently in charge of the Clans and the pair will be hoping for a big improvement from their players.
They have real talent in performers like Paul McKenna and Stephan Campbell to call upon but a lot will depend on the fitness of Ballymacnab pair Ruairi Grugan and Gavin McPartland. McPartland scored a hat-trick in the corresponding fixture last season but he is unlikely to be afforded the same room at the weekend.
This Clan na Gael side has a good blend of youth and experience. Mickey Austin, Marty Lavery and Conor McCaffrey will be setting the standards for the younger generation and if McKenna and Ronan Austin break even at midfield, the Blues will be in with a shout.
With the Clans needing a lot of results to go their way in the second half of the league season, a championship victory on Sunday would come as a massive boost. Goalscorers from the recent all-county reserve final victory, Stephan Campbell and Sean Mackle, could be leading players for the Blues on Sunday.
On Monday night it will be the turn of another Lurgan team to take to the championship stage as Clann Éireann travel to the Athletic Grounds to face reigning Intermediate Champions Culloville who make their senior return.