By Shaun Casey
IT’S not so much a group of death, but St Peter’s will face stiff opposition once the Armagh SFC kicks into gear next week.
The Lurgan side have been drawn against last year’s beaten finalists Granemore, 2021 winners and reining league champions Clann Éireann and Grange, who suffered relegation to Division 2A via the league.
But the round-robin series offers the Whites a chance to gain some quality experience at the highest level, says their captain, Aaron Findon.
“It’s good in the sense that you have a chance, but if we were to look at it reasonably, we would be one of the weaker teams going by tradition so if we took a big scalp, we have Clann Éireann, league champions, you beat them, but it’s not knockout football.
“The year we won the Intermediate Championship (2018), Clonmore beat us and Mullaghbawn in the group and the two of us went on to the final and Clonmore dropped out in the quarter-final.
“The following year when we went up to senior, I think the last game was a dead rubber for us. I think if it goes the same way the All-Ireland series was, it’ll be competitive the whole way through and that’s what you want, it gives everybody a chance.
“I like it because we’ll have two home games, and we have more opportunities to play senior football and play the big teams and get the learning curves from it that way as opposed to maybe getting a Crossmaglen in the first round and getting beat.
“Then next year maybe something similar happen and then you’re three years in and maybe only played three championship matches.
“Whereas now, you get three championship matches under your belt no matter what and plenty of learning from it.”
Former Antrim manager Frank Fitzsimmons, and his right-hand man Pat Hughes, have enjoyed a great first year in charge of St Peter’s, taking them to third place in Division 1B.
“He has a good track record, the two of them are from Belfast and they’re mental,” laughed the St Peter’s midfielder.
“You need to be very, very thick skinned but they’re good. They’re old school and they’ve put a bit of responsibility back on the players.
“They’d tell us that we know our bodies, I’m 30 years old now and there’s a few of the boys in round that and age has all of a sudden caught up with us. We’re now thinking we do need to look after ourselves and he tells us to do whatever we need to do.
“They’re old school but their organised, very organised, which is exactly what you want. They arrange friendly matches, and you know you’re going to get good challenges, the training is well organized.
“It’s nice to have. Davy Wilson, whenever he left last year, he was considering staying on, but they’d done three years and maybe the message had run stale. They thought a fresh message would get a wee bit more out of it and that’s what has happened.”