Crossmaglen focused on discipline in final countdown
Tony Kernan has revealed how Crossmaglen have had to tighten up on their discipline and not react to on-field verbals, as they negotiated safe passage past Kilcoo to reach an Ulster club final.
Last year, their fixture against Omagh St Enda's was reputedly peppered with a liberal sprinkling of sledging, leading Kernan himself to be shown a red card with ten minutes remaining, rendering Cross with only 13 men following Callum Cumiskey's earlier sending-off as Cross bowed out.
The potential for more of the same was always possible with the often-fractious relationship Cross have with Kilcoo, but Kernan emerged as the man-of-the-match, insisting that their composure was key.
"I think the way Kilcoo play, they thought we might react and maybe lose our discipline. But that was our big focus, that we were going to be disciplined, because there's a lot of stuff goes on in those games and you just have to take it on the chin," he said.
"In this past couple of years we started to listen to what people were saying and we reacted. And we suffered as a result, so whatever was said today we had to completely take it on the chin and play football in a manly way. We did that, certainly in the second half.
"The referee did well with it. It was a tough Ulster club game. Kilcoo's big goal is to try and win an Ulster Championship and they're going to do whatever it takes to win one."
This win leaves Cross in an Ulster final after a three-year hiatus, the longest period since 2004.
"It's far too long," admits Kernan.
"We got into a bit of a rut where we won three in a row and then we lost one, and then we won three in a row again. It's not that you take it for granted but you expect to be playing in the last weekend in November and when you're not doing it, it's a wee bit strange. You feel you've let your parish down."
He added: "I think we're known for playing, and we've even got such a big following from outside of our own county, for playing a manly football and honest football and that's what we're proud of."
The game also featured the return of Jamie Clarke to club action following a four-month break, with Kernan adding that the panel has had a freshen-up with the graduation of a tranche of players from the youth system.
"From the county semi-final, we've brought in eight minors and they've really given us the biggest lift. They've really been unbelievable, all of them.
"It's amazing what fresh young faces do. Training is so much more fun, we have more numbers and everyone's arriving with a smile on their faces."
He added: "And it was great we have Jamie coming back in now, but it was really the young boys who have given us the greatest lift. They're the main reason we're in an Ulster final."