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Armagh team mates to clash in semi-final

By John Campbell

Two players who have operated so efficiently in tandem in recent years that they have already acquired legendary status in Ulster will find themselves coming out fighting from opposite corners tomorrow.

While Steven McDonnell will be doing his best to ensure that Killeavey earn a place in the Armagh senior football championship final, Ronan Clarke will be a pivotal figure in Pearse Ogs bid to reach the decider when the clubs meet in the semi-final at the refurbished Athletic Grounds (2.00pm).

The Orchard county duo, who have played such an important part in their county’s dominance of the provincial scene over recent years - seven titles in ten years - and were instrumental in helping to bring the All Ireland title to Armagh in 2002, will certainly hold the spotlight in this last four showdown.

It’s a contest that is laced with intrigue and speckled with quality.

McDonnell and Louth ace Mark Stansfield are the key marksmen in a Killeavey side gunning for glory while Clarke is joined by his county squad colleagues Ciaran McKinney and Paul Duffy in the Pearse Og line-up.

The city club, which has been making great strides both on and off the field under the chairmanship of Gerry Davidson, faltered before regaining their rhythm against a plucky Granemore side in the semi-final and were forced to rely heavily on Clarke’s creative flair and finishing touch in that game when he scored a goal, made another and generally imposed his stamp on proceedings.

McDonnell’s accuracy from frees and play has sustained Killeavey’s charge into the final and the experienced corner forward is certain to come in for close attention from the Pearse Og defence in which Chris Rafferty, scorer of a spectacular goal against Granemore, is a key figure.

McDonnell, a busy contracts manager, makes it clear that Killeavey are intent on getting into the final.

“We have become more consistent and we feel we are in with a big chance. But Pearse Og have a lot of quality in their side - and they have Ronan Clarke,” he smiles.

As a twin spearhead in Armagh’s colours, McDonnell and Clarke have brought their own special dimension to forward play in general.

On Sunday they will be going their separate ways in the club sphere to experience some of the glory they have already earned at county level.

Belfast Telegraph

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