St. Paul’s ready for big challenge

Shane McConville (centre) full of smiles at the final whistle following St Paul's semi-final success.INLM40-131
Shane McConville (centre) full of smiles at the final whistle following St Paul's semi-final success.INLM40-131

Armagh Intermediate champions St. Paul’s are currently targeting Ulster Championship glory as they prepare to face Fermanagh Champions Derrylin in Sunday’s provincial opener.

With Davitt Park currently unavailable and the Athletic Grounds undergoing remedial re-surfacing work, the Lurgan side will travel to Crossmaglen to face their Fermanagh opponents in a tie which has to be played in a recognised County Ground.

Although some club sides would see participation in the Ulster series as a bonus, Saints boss Shane McConville certainly hasn’t allowed his players to lose their focus. St. Paul’s, since winning their County Final against Grange, have maintained their high level of preparation which was instrumental in securing a League and Championship double this season.

McConville said, “We are taking the Ulster series seriously, myself and the players want to push on. Some people are suggesting we are in bonus territory but we don’t look at it like that, we have a big challenge in front of us and we have to be well prepared,” added the St. Paul’s supremo.

With the Lurgan men showing a clean bill of health following their impressive County Final win the manager has no concerns about the game being held in Crossmaglen. “We have a match to win irrespective of where it is played. The pitch is a secondary matter, we have to get our fitness and our performance right. Cross, like the Athletic Grounds is a big pitch, similar to our own, so I think we will be okay with the venue.”

With two of the fancied sides namely Warrenpoint and Dungannon Clarkes meeting the first round, this seasons Ulster Intermediate series could be wide open. The Lurgan side will line out a strong side for Sunday’s clash with their Fermanagh counterparts who will be no doubt well versed on the Teghnevan sides top players.

Former Armagh Minor star Andrew Murnin, who is now being touted for Senior County call up, can play in several positions.

“If Andrew was drafted into the Armagh squad everyone at St. Paul’s would wish him well, I don’t know if that will happen or not,but in the past he was invited to join the Armagh squad when Paddy O’Rourke was in charge so it’s not the first time he has been sought after.”

It would be a huge bonus to the Lurgan side if Murnan lined out solely for his club next season in what will be a highly competitive Division 1 campaign, and if early indications are to be heeded then County players could be lost to their club sides for extended periods when new Armagh boss Kieran McGeeney sets in vogue his managerial tenure.

St. Paul’s, who have succeeded in moving the development of their playing facilities in tandem with success on the field of play, are without doubt Armagh’s club of the year, but they face a Derylin team who will be very fast and mobile opponents.