By Niall McCoy and Shaun Casey
KILLEAVY U-21 manager Seán King is hoping that their dramatic Armagh final win over Clann Éireann on Sunday can be the launch-pad for senior success for the south Armagh outfit.
King’s side landed a late score five minutes into additional time to force extra-time at the Athletic Grounds, and they sealed the deal from there to win 1-11 to 0-9, sub Tiarnan Brown with the goal, securing the club’s first title at that grade since 1997.
The senior team are one of the last in Armagh yet to appoint for the 2024 season following Tommy Coleman’s exit, but whoever takes over will have a good crop to mould.
“When you win an u-21 title, for any club the hope would be that it’s used as a springboard to push on,” said King.
“We had five or six boys from the senior panel and you hope that they use that. It probably boils down to belief.
“We only had them for 11 weeks so the stuff done in terms of fitness, skills, technical skills, our tactical work, that doesn’t really have a bearing on it because whoever is managing the senior team next year, a new brush sweeps clean.
“I hope the big thing that the boys take out of it though is the work we did from a mental point of view. I firmly believe that the difference between teams that win championships and don’t win championships, especially at senior level, is about what work is done on the mental side of things.”
Having just recently turned 24, King didn’t have many years on the players but he said their hunger for knowledge made his job easy, as did the support of his management team Gordon Magennis, Shane Bannon and Barry Trainor.
The quartet maybe didn’t enjoy those final minutes in real time, but could reflect with satisfaction on Sunday evening.
“Their want for the boys to do well was second to none and I was really lucky to have them,” King continued.
“When you haven’t won an u-21 Championship in 26 years it brings its own level of excitement. I think the way the game panned out and the way we won it added to that.
“At the time it probably wasn’t great for us on the line but looking back you couldn’t ask for a better way to win from an excitement point of view.
“With six minutes to go, we were two up and I thought one more score would have done it for us but it just wasn’t to be.
“Clann Éireann got three in a row and were one up after 63 minutes and you can only be proud of the boys from that point on. The response was top drawer.”
Meanwhile, in management news in the Orchard County, Mark Harte and Adrian O’Donnell have taken charge of Madden for the upcoming season, replacing Mickey Grimley at the helm.
The pair guided their native club Errigal Ciaran to the Promised Land last season, but they lost their title to Trillick this year.
Son of legendary Tyrone manager Mickey, Harte will come up against his former club teammate Pascal Canavan, who remains in charge of Armagh Harps.
Granemore have a new manager in place with two-time championship winner with Maghery Stephen Cusack taking over from Niall McAleenan. Granemore reached the championship final in 2022 and avoided the drop to Division 1B by the skin of their teeth this year.
Ballymacnab weren’t as lucky however and former Armagh ladies boss Ronan Murphy, who won three Ulster titles with the Orchard County, has taken over the men in maroon, replacing the outgoing Barry Dillon.
Former Crossmaglen attacker Johnny Murtagh will lead Shane O’Neill’s next season. The Camlough men won the Intermediate title in 2022 but found the transition to senior level difficult and were relegated back down last term.
Simon McGeary remains in charge of Keady while Brackaville clubman Stephen Ferguson, who led Tattyreagh to Junior and Intermediate success in recent years, has taken the reins at Tullysaran, replacing John Devine and Davy Harte.
Derrynoose have retained the services of Paul Hagan while Peter Nugent will remain in charge of Wolfe Tones for a third consecutive campaign.
Gary McCrilly will lead Division 3A winners An Port Mor while Barry Murray has replaced Seamus O’Callaghan at St Michael’s.