Cross must stay focused, warns Donnelly
When Crossmaglen Rangers and St Eunan's (Letterkenny) go toe to toe in the Ulster Minor Club Football tournament final at the St Paul's complex in west Belfast tomorrow (1.30pm), their meeting will carry enhanced status.
The match will formally mark the start of the St Paul's 75th anniversary celebrations and this being the case, everyone connected with the Shaw's Road outfit are pushing the boat out for what Chairman Chris Brown predicts will be "a truly memorable year" for the club.
The ongoing success of the minor tournament has been a considerable feather in the cap of St Paul's and that's why Brown and his organising committee are preparing to make tomorrow's showpiece an extra special occasion.
"We could not have asked for a better pairing in this final as Crossmaglen and St Eunan's have been hugely impressive to date. They are very much the form sides in the competition and I believe that we are in for a real treat," asserted Brown.
"Obviously we have lots of things in the pipeline relative to our anniversary celebrations but the match is the ideal launchpad for what we believe will be a truly memorable year."
Certainly, Crossmaglen Rangers have maintained their club's reputation for power play in the tournament, their victories over Rostrevor and Moortown in particular highlighting their cohesion and marksmanship.
In Micheal McCabe, Rian O'Neill, Oisin O'Neill, Caolan Dillon, Fergal Burns and Daniel Cunningham, the Rangers possess players whose skill belies their tender years.
Manager Kieran Donnelly, while pleased with his the Rangers' progress, acknowledges that St Eunan's will prove tough opponents even though they will be without the talented Rory Carr, who suffered a dislocated shoulder in the team's semi-final victory over Enniskillen Gaels last weekend in which he scored 1-4 before being rushed off to hospital for treatment.
"There is a good depth of talent within this St Eunan's side and I have no doubt that they will be very fired up for this final," said Donnelly.
"While it's great for us to be involved in this game, we know that we must keep our concentration going for the entire 60-plus minutes."
St Eunan's were hugely impressive in racking up 4-10 against the Gaels' 0-8 when the creative skills of centre-three-quarters Niall O'Donnell allied to Carr's finishing in particular were pronounced features of their handsome victory.
O'Donnell's deceptively languid style has much in common with that of Donegal All-Ireland winning icon Michael Murphy and should the former unveil his top form yet again tomorrow, then the Crossmaglen defence will certainly come under strong pressure.
Chairman Brown added: "The level of individual talent that will be on display and the teamwork which both contestants have displayed to date auger well for a thrilling climax to the tournament."
It's an assessment that will brook little argument from any quarter.