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Clarke and McKenna boost for Crossmaglen's Ulster bid

By John Campbell

Jamie Clarke and David McKenna have thrust themselves into the frame for places in the Crossmaglen Rangers side that will face Kilcoo in Sunday's Ulster Club Football Championship semi-final at Pairc Esler, Newry.

Both missed the quarter-final win over Cargin and, indeed, Clarke has been an absentee for some time following his decision to go travelling on the continent after Armagh's exit from the All-Ireland football qualifiers.

Injury meant that McKenna was forced to forfeit his place at midfield against Cargin with Stephen Finnegan joining Johnny Hanratty in the engine-room.

Rico Kelly did much to tip the scales in Rangers' favour when he was switched to midfield before half-time against Cargin and although normally accommodated in the attack, he could again be asked to patrol the central area on Sunday.

McKenna, though, is thirsting for action again while Clarke has been working on building up his fitness, however he is still thought to be some way off Ulster Club Championship pace.

However, Clarke's finishing skills and his ability to bring colleagues into a game via his slick passing would seem to indicate that he will get game time.

Indeed, the availability of both himself and McKenna will provide a further boost for the Rangers joint management team of John McEntee and Oisin McConville, who can also take comfort from the performances of some of the substitutes they called on against Cargin.

Oisin O'Neill in particular made a big impact by landing three points from play as the Rangers cruised through the closing stages to win by 2-15 to 0-13 while Aaron Cunningham and Kyle Brennan also made their presence felt.

McEntee warned: "It was heartening to see the way all the lads performed against Cargin but we must step up further on our performance level from that game if we are to beat Kilcoo.

"They will be encouraged by that big win they had over Kingscourt Stars in the quarter-final and there is no doubt that they will be keen to maintain their winning sequence.

"We have options at midfield and competition for places is obviously sharp. The return of David McKenna and Jamie Clarke gives us a further lift but we will certainly need all hands to the pump for what will be a huge task.

"Kilcoo will be comfortable at Pairc Esler but then we are not exactly strangers to the ground ourselves. When teams get to this stage of the Ulster series, they naturally want to go on and reach the final."

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