Armagh Intermediate champions Clann Eireann who have had a fantastic season failed narrowly in extra time to beat Donegal champions Bundoran last Sunday in the Provincial opener played in Ballybofey.
The Lurgan side scored the only goal of the game which came from James McDade on 12 minutes, but the Lurgan men fell narrowly short and although Kieran Robinson’s sides fitness levels were spot on they may look back on the Ulster tie as a game that got away.
Clann Eireann are a club which are moving onwards and upwards, built on the back of many years of sterling work at youth level, their new manager has given the extra amount of co-ordination needed to bring silverware back to the Lake Street club, and the exploits of the past season will have galvanised the notion that even bigger rewards lie ahead.
Barry Seeley was the Clanns only points scorer on Sunday and the Lurgan man showed unerring accuracy from set pieces throughout the 60 minutes.
Two players for the winners stood out particularly in the games closing stages, despite finishing with 14 men following the dismissal of midfielder Peter McGonagle for a second bookable offence the winners were forced over the line by the heroics of James and Christy Keaney who both in defence and attack contributed greatly to the win.
The Ulster Intermediate title still eludes Armagh clubs, the competition is extremely difficult to win particularly considering the changing nature of sides who compete in it each season, while Clann Eireann can look back on a tie they could have won, they can be content in the knowledge that both their young and experienced players will remember the past season with fondness.
With Clann Eireann’s 2015 season now at an end the Lurgan club will be strong contenders for the prestigious Armagh Club of the Year Award.
Last season St. Paul’s picked up the accolade but found playing in the top flight particularly tough, with the result that Shane McConville’s side failed to consolidate their Division 1 status this year.
With clubs who either win the Intermediate series or the Division 2 title automatically playing in the Senior Championship the following year which results in no team being able to defend their title the Clanns will line out in the Senior series in 2016. Back in 2008 Sarsfields moved to the top flight and following a couple of difficult years the Trasna men have comfortably sustained their position, and in 2014 they were just one win away from being crowned champions.
2016 will be a crucial year for the development of Clann Eireann’s young players in particular, should the Lurgan club remain in the top flight next season they could well emulate Sarsfields who have reached a level of consistency in the league. Two other sides namely Annaghmore and Wolfe Tones have also had satisfactory seasons in Division 1, the Tones finished in a credible mid table position and Annaghmore showed sterling form both in league and championship competitions.
For the moment the Clann Eireann management and their players will deserve a well earned break before setting their sights on the First Division and Senior Championship campaigns, the Lurgan side looked well equipped to bring their ever growing number of young players through to their senior ranks on the back of the experience they have gained contesting several County finals.
With Clanns player Shea Heffron again expected to turn down an offer to join the Armagh squad, and Ryan Henderson having stated already stated that he had no interest in returning to the County colours, the Lake Street side should have their full quota of players available for next season’s campaign which will be crucial.
Last season St. Paul’s struggled in many games when missing both Phelim O’Neill and Andrew Murnan, yet the Teghnevan side were just one win away from avoiding relegation.