All Ireland Club Championship: I’m no sentimental fool, says Crossmaglen Rangers boss
Crossmaglen Rangers joint manager Tony McEntee indicated last night that he will be seeking “a big performance” from the Armagh and Ulster champions when they confront St Brigid’s (Roscommon) in the AIB All Ireland club Football final at Croke Park on St Patrick’s Day.
Sentiment will play no part in team selection as McEntee and his managerial colleague Gareth O’Neill prepare to name their starting 15 for what they hope will be a fifth All Ireland crown since 1997.
McEntee, who won a shoal of honours with Rangers and Armagh, has brought the same steely resolve and single-mindedness to his role as joint boss that were his pronounced traits as a player.
He now finds himself in charge of a squad that includes a number of players alongside whom he performed in Rangers colours, but remains adamant that this does not influence his selection decisions.
“Obviously difficult calls have to be made from time to time but we go solely on the basis of performance.
“The motive on any call must be based on the welfare of the team. We try to be true to ourselves in this respect. If a player is playing well then he gets a starting place, it’s as simple as that,” insists McEntee, whose twin brother John has made a comeback in Rangers colours in recent months.
Over the past year established players like Michael McNamee and David McKenna have been called ashore during games while McEntee himself cites the case of Aaron Cunningham as someone who initially struggled to nail down a regular berth before getting more regular recognition.
“Aaron had been in and out of the side and had been used as a substitute but persevered and then became more of a regular,” explains McEntee.
Over the course of recent days he has been studying videos of St Brigid’s, who caused a surprise when they beat Cork and Munster champions Nemo Rangers in the All Ireland semi-final, and has already formed very definite ideas on their strengths.
“They are very aggressive and very mobile. I have been very impressed as it happens with their midfielder Karol Mannion and the work-rate of their threequarter line in particular. When we last played them three years ago they were very hard-working and they certainly have not changed much since then,” states McEntee.