By Shaun Casey
THE clash of the Lurgan Clans looks set to be the highlight of the weekend in Armagh as Clann Éireann and Clan na Gael face off for a spot in the Senior Championship final.
Clann Éireann were last there two seasons ago, when they collected the Gerry Fagan Cup while 14-time winners Clan na Gael haven’t reached the decider since 2006.
It’s been eight years since the pair collided in championship football and that was at intermediate level, but both clubs have made huge strides since then.
“No matter who it was at the semi-final stage it was always going to be a tough game, probably a wee bit of extra spice with our old neighbours,” said Clann Éireann boss Ruairi Lavery after his side saw off Silverbridge to reach the last four.
“But if you have aspirations of winning it you have to beat whoever comes out of the pot. It was Clans or Madden or Crossmaglen, it’s not as if any of them are easy or anything like that.
“I don’t know if many of them would have wanted to meet Clann Éireann either, so we’ll just focus on ourselves and get ready for the Clans.”
Of the four semi-finalists, Clan na Gael are the only team that didn’t top their group.
But a playoff victory over Dromintee and an impressive quarter-final win over Killeavy has allowed them to progress to the final four.
Star names such as Stefan Campbell and Shane McPartlan had stormers as the Lurgan Blues upset the odds against Killeavy, managed by former Clann Éireann boss Tommy Coleman, and Lavery suggests there’s plenty of talent in their ranks.
“I saw bits and pieces of it, and they obviously played with the wind in the first half and put a big press onto Killeavy and got seven scores,” added the Clann Éireann boss, now in his second season in charge of his home club.
“They certainly looked impressive and any team that beats Killeavy deserves it so fair play to them they’re going really well.
“The Clans, I know from my own children and stuff that they have a really good underage structure there and there’s a lot coming through.
“They have won the minors two years in a row, so the Clans are coming on strong. The longer they go on in this championship, the more belief it’s going to give them so we’re looking forward to it.”
Clann Eireann overcame Silverbridge in their quarter-final with seven points to spare, and manager Lavery was pleased with his side’s performance.
“They (Silverbridge) were coming here with confidence, and they were maybe using what Clann Eireann did in 2021 as something to aim for, to come up from Division 1B and win the championship.
“They’re really well coached but we knew if we were going to have any chance of coming through the game, we had to match them in terms of their hunger, their desire and their work rate and then hopefully our quality would come through.”