History making Saints are tops

St. Paul's celebrate their win.
St. Paul's celebrate their win.

St Paul’s 2-13 Grange 2-10

St. Paul’s captured an historic double on Sunday when they added the Intermediate Championship to their League title and now look forward to facing Fermanagh champions Derrylinn in the first round of the Ulster Series in just over two weeks time.

The provincial tie will be played at the Athletic Grounds which has become a second home for the Lurgan outfit who mimicked their fantastic fightback against Forkhill in the semi -final with an even better performance last weekend against a side who had been touted as favourites from a long way out.

Grange who St. Paul’s beat on Sunday deserved to be in the final, they approached the game in an honest fashion and although battling to the end the Mid-Armagh men struggled against the dash, power and versatility of Shane McConville’s team who came back from six behind to clinch the title.

Saints forward Niall McPartland, who blazed a spot kick wide in the semi, made no mistake on this occasion during the second half when referee Paudie Hughes had cleared the area following a foul on Andy Murnan. The former County Minor who had tortured the Forkhill defence last time out produced a superb performance on Sunday from various positions, Murnan was in sublime form releasing pressure from his defensive colleagues and popping up in the danger area when the pressure was applied in the closing stages.

The young Lurgan man, who mostly avoids the limelight, won’t mind being viewed to in the same light as former St. Paul’s players such as Jim McCorry, Dennis Seeley, Kieran McNally, Mickey McDonald and indeed Shane McConville who has turned his enthusiasm on the field of play into the drive and commitment required to win titles.

St. Paul’s began the first half slowly but finished it with a flourish. They fell behind in the first quarter despite two early points from Mickey Shanks. Grange for their part ran up a six points lead with well taken scores from Cathal Toal, Padraig Rafferty, Eathan and Brendan Rafferty which rallied a response from the winners with scores by Daniel McDonald,Murnan and a brace from Ryan Lawless reducing the margin between the sides on the short whistle.

With Chris Lavery and skipper Peidhlim O’Neill holding sway around the middle and even considering that Grange added two goals from Brendan Rafferty, St. Paul’s kept their composure and were rewarded when Ryan Lawless latched on to a Murnan probe to strike for the winners second goal of the game.

Late points from McDonald and Lavery secured the title for the Lurgan men who saw referee Paudie Hughes wave away a penalty claim from the losers in the dying minutes.

St. Paul’s who are in all accounts Armagh’s club of the year, are as unassuming as they are successful, when the dust settles on their glistening 2014 campaign the analysis on their success this term can be traced to the way their players and coaches managed their term in the First Division.

A tough 2013 campaign certainly had no adverse effect on Shane McConville and his team who are now heading for a Provincial campaign in bonus mood.