Four of the longest-serving and most successful club players in Ulster plan to call time on their careers.
Francie Bellew, Oisin McConville and the McEntee twins John and Tony will step down from the Crossmaglen Rangers side when their involvement in the Armagh and/or Ulster and All Ireland Club championships is terminated.
The quartet, all of whom have rendered outstanding service to the Armagh county side and figured in their 2002 All Ireland triumph, have given combined service of over 60 years to the Rangers, amassing a shoal of individual honours in the process.
“Obviously we have had a great run in the side but there are a lot of very talented young players coming through just now and they deserve to get their chance,” points out Oisin McConville.
While McConville along with his three soon-to-retire colleagues will again be on duty against Pearse Og in Saturday night’s Armagh championship quarter-final at the Athletic Grounds (7pm), Rangers manager Donal Murtagh now finds himself with interesting selection options as players like Aaron Cunningham, Francis Hanratty, Rico Kelly, Jamie Clarke and Kyle Carragher jostle for places.
Murtagh says: “Obviously it’s good to see competition for slots being stepped up but I know that our old hands will want to go out on a high. Their appetite for success is clearly as strong as ever.”
Rangers will face a stiff challenge from a Pearse Og side that will look to county stars Ronan Clarke, Andrew Mallon, Paul Duffy and ex-county ace Ciaran McKinney to set an example.
Clarke has been in particularly impressive form this year despite Armagh’s less than impressive championship impact and will pose a sizeable threat to Rangers.
In the other semi-final on Sunday (7.30pm), Granemore will take on St Patrick’s.