Top contenders chase the intermediate throne

By Shaun Casey

THE Armagh Intermediate Championship is always keenly contested and difficult to call with any real degree of certainty and the 2023 competition is set to be no different.

Culloville will be the team on many people’s lips following their successful Division 2A league campaign and with Niall Rowland still doing the business, the Blues look set for a good run.

They’re up against Wolfe Tones, Keady and Cross IIs in Group C and barring any major upsets, should reach the knockout stages at the first time of asking.

The Tones were relegated from Division 2A but have potential to throw a spanner into the works while Cross IIs have senior championship winners Rico Kelly and Johnny Murtagh in their ranks.

Keady won Division 2B this year and with a number of younger players coming through, could be a team to cause an upset somewhere along the line.

Cullyhanna were Culloville’s biggest challengers in the league and will have a big say in this championship. They’ve been boosted by the return of their county men, county captain Aidan Nugent, Jason Duffy and Ross McQuillan.

They also have former Armagh players Mickey Murray and Sean Connell back in the fold this year along with Tony Donnelly.

Tullysaran are the main challengers to St Patrick’s in Group A, although Belleek, who they meet in the first round, will offer a stiff examination. Middletown were relegated from Division 2B and may struggle.

Four-time SFC winners Pearse Óg were relegated from the topflight last season but can still call on some of their 2009 senior championship winning team for assistance, such as the Duffy brothers Anto and Paul.

Annaghmore earned promotion to Division 2A through the league and the MacIomhair brothers, Ciaran and Oisin, remain their best players.

Tír na nÓg suffered relegated but could be a different prospect now that Oisin Conaty is back from county duty. Similarly, Whitecross will be better placed as Mark Shields is back to full fitness.

Last year’s beaten finalists St Paul’s, who were devastatingly defeated by a last-minute goal, have been knocking on the door for a while and with 2002 All-Ireland winner Ronan Clarke now at the helm, and Andrew Murnin fully fit, they’ll hope this is their year.

They face a difficult group against 2021 IFC winners Carrickcruppen, last year’s junior champions Derrynoose, who held their own in Division 2B, and Forkhill who, despite relegation, can cause bother with Stephen Sheridan and Jemar Hall their big names.

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