Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 31 July 2014

Crokes will be big test for Crossmaglen Rangers

Tony McEntee

Crossmaglen Rangers will step up preparations for next month's All-Ireland Club football championship semi-final against Dr Crokes this weekend.

Joint manager Tony McEntee is losing no time in ensuring that his players will shed any excess poundage accumulated over the festive season.

"This is a massive game for us as Dr Crokes showed when winning the Munster club title that they are a very good side," says McEntee.

"I have no doubt that they are capable of taking things to a different level against us and we have to be ready for that."

Rangers of course are still recovering from the trauma endured through the tragic death of James Hughes earlier this month and now the team management is hopeful that the players can regain their focus.

Hughes, who shared in many successes as a player with the Rangers, was shot dead in Dundalk.

McEntee and his management colleague Gareth O'Neill have already conducted a detailed analysis of Dr Crokes - a side which includes two of Kerry's most decorated players in Colm Cooper and Eoin Brosnan - in advance of the February 18 confrontation which will take place at O'Moore Park, Portlaoise.

Cooper is one of the most outstanding forwards in the history of the GAA and represents a huge threat to Rangers' hopes of booking a final place against either St Brigid's (Roscommon) or Garycastle (Westmeath) who will meet in the other semi-final scheduled for a day later.

He is a potent marksman who, on even limited possession, can destroy opponents while Brosnan has settled comfortably into the centre-half-back berth having previously played at wing-forward and midfield.

And the Crokes will also parade Kieran O'Leary who made a huge impression in Kerry's colours this year and has both the pace and skill to discomfit the Rangers rearguard.

In addition, Brian Looney and Daithi Casey would surely be seeing action with the Kingdom in the National League were it not for their involvement in the All-Ireland club series.

Dr Crokes coach Harry O'Neill believes that his team's defeat to Crossmaglen in the 2007 All-Ireland club decider will prove an extra spur to his side this time round.

But not surprisingly Crossmaglen's Tony McEntee is of the opinion that the Rangers can replicate their superb triumph of five years ago.

"It is going to be extremely difficult though against a very good side," admits McEntee.

"There is real quality in this Dr Crokes side and they have been gaining appreciably in confidence as they have gone through this year."

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