Granemore manager primed for top of the table clash

By Shaun Casey

LAST year’s beaten championship finalists Granemore take on the 2021 winners, and league champions, Clann Éireann on Sunday evening in perhaps the tie of the weekend as the Armagh championship enters it’s final round of the group stages.

Both sides are unbeaten from their two outings, with Clann Éireann overcoming both St Peter’s and Grange while Granemore drew with St Peter’s following their opening round win over Grange.

The experience of reaching their first-ever senior final can not be underestimated inside that Granemore changing room, but this weekend, four of last year’s starters won’t be on the field.

Full back and joint-captain Darren Carr has been forced into retirement while the O’Neill brothers, Jason and Eoghan, are both out with season-ending knee injuries. Ross Finn, who has been a county panellist over the past few years, is also unavailable.

It’s been a difficult last few weeks in that we’ve lost key men,” said Granemore manager Niall McAleenan, now in his second year in charge.

“Obviously the two O’Neills, Eoghan and then Jason, who are two major scorers for the team and then Ross, he’s a way to Canada, a massive miss and Darren Carr had to quit playing.

“Ryan Rafferty was carrying injuries and Paudie Hollywood is only coming back into the team so we’re missing a lot of players at the minute but I’m sure other teams are the same.

“We go to Clann Éireann now next week which is going to be a very difficult game to win down there, but we’ll go, we’ll try to prepare as best we can this week and we’ll see what happens.”

While Granemore are minus a lot of quality, former Armagh midfielder Kieran Toner has been a huge addition this season having returned from retirement. “Kieran is a natural leader,” explained McAleenan.

“He’s come back into that position that Ross would have played last year, and he’s gave us that focus and that communication back there in that position.

“The boys all look up to him. He’s a big strong fella, he can win ball, he can win dirty ball, he can put in tackles, and he can play a bit of football himself so it’s brilliant to have Kieran back in the team.”

Granemore now head to Clann Éireann knowing a victory will secure their progress to the last eight. “It’s a massively difficult job,” added the former Warrenpoint boss.

“I suppose the two teams that you would look at at the minute for getting to the latter stages of the championship would be Clann Eireann and obviously Crossmaglen. They are littered with footballers.

“They would nearly remind me of the Warrenpoint team that I’d have taken a few years ago, they have pace, they have energy all over the park and obviously with Conor Turbitt, the McConvilles, Tiernan Kelly and Barry McCambridge, they are a formidable team.

“It’s going to be a very difficult game for us next week so we’ll just have to prepare as best as we possibly can and see where that takes us.”

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