By Shaun Casey
THE shadow boxing is over and the cut and thrust of knockout football comes to Armagh this weekend. Everything is on the line for Clan an Gael and Dromintee as they meet on Saturday with a spot in the quarter-finals on offer for the victor.
Clans made it through the group stages unbeaten, drawing with Crossmaglen in the opening round before seeing off Mullaghbawn and Sarsfields, but this weekend, all their hard work could be undone.
“That’s the reality of playing Dromintee now in a game that’s do or die,” said Clan na Gael boss Ronan McMahon. “Dromintee have great pedigree in the championship, certainly more so in the last generation than Clan na Gael do in the Senior Championship.
“While you can probably learn bits and pieces from the games on Armagh TV, it’s only going to teach you so much because when you get to the heat of the championship, every team needs to go to a different level.
“Dromintee is going to be really, really tough, we know that. It’s two different styles probably as well which is going to be interesting for the neutral. It’s a matter of who gets the better of their opposition on the day.”
Shane McPartlan, who made his debut for Armagh this season, has been a leading light for the Lurgan Blues and is currently the top scorer in the Senior Championship having rattled off 3-19 in three games.
“He’s a joy to watch and a joy to coach as well,” added the Warrenpoint native who took over from Diarmaid Marsden at the start of the year.
“He’s a brilliant influence on the other guys and I can understand why Kieran McGeeney has him starting now and featuring for Armagh.
“He’s just such a leader on the pitch. He wants his hands on the ball and in every play, he wants to be involved. That’s a real joy to have in the team.
“Diarmaid (Marsden) had him last year in the league and championship and we really missed him in the league this year just for scores and that wee bit of punch.
“The challenge is always that someday somebody is going to mark him tight and he’s never going to get it easy. Others have to step up then and take that wee bit of pressure off him because at the minute, only for him we wouldn’t be in the position we’re in.”