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Crossmaglen Rangers raise the bar

By Declan Bogue

The venue for the Ulster club final was determined by the toss of a coin last night in the Canal Court Hotel, with Crossmaglen Rangers getting to play the final at the Morgan Athletic Grounds, Armagh.

Hammer blow: Crossmaglen captain David McKenna fires in a crucial goal against Errigal CiaranBY declan bogue

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While it may mean a great deal to some where the game is played, to Crossmaglen captain David McKenna, variables such as these do not come into play when they take the field.

On Sunday McKenna drove the final nail in the Errigal Ciaran coffin when he thumped home a goal in the 56th minute. The margin became five points and Cross just had to see the game out.

“Putting on a Crossmaglen jersey is always associated with pressure. There's a pressure to win and the winning mentality surrounds the club,” he said.

“If we play well, I don't think there's too many teams that can stop us.”

Errigal Ciaran were the more impressive side in the first half, but it was also notable that McKenna, Michael McNamee, Martin Aherne and Oisín McConville all kicked wides from the 29th to 31st minutes.

“We were working hard and playing well I felt, but we weren't clinical enough in front of goals and I felt we were panicking a wee bit which isn't really associated with us,” said McKenna.

“We seemed to be a wee bit jittery. I suppose it's an Ulster semi-final, it's a big enough occasion, but in the second half we rectified that, we were more clinical in front of goal, had more composure. We opened them up in the end and were happy to go through.”

Their second-half performance was awesome as they refused to let Errigal out of their own half for long stretches. Quite simply, they overran the Tyrone champions.

“We had to put a big squeeze on,” said McKenna. “They were doing well, combating our style of play in the first half. We knew that if we could lift the tempo they couldn't really live with us, so that's what we had to do in the second half, come out and just see what they were made of.”

As for all the pre-match conjecture surrounding the famed record that Sunday's opponents held over the men from south Armagh, McKenna said it was of no concern to this latest edition of Rangers players.

“No, that wasn't a factor,” he responded.

“I personally never played Errigal before and most of our boys haven't played Errigal. We had no hoodoos over us with Errigal. We just take them as any other team, try to put in a good performance and try to get over them.”

Kilcoo's fabulous victory over St Gall's showed exactly how they do not respect reputations, and how they will fear no opposition. After the game, their players made a beeline for the dressing rooms after a brief warm-down, with no stopping to talk to reporters.

They will be determined and sticky opponents, but McKenna spells out a daunting promise to the challengers.

“We are progressing. I feel personally that there's a wee bit more left in the tank — which there always is. It's hard to get that perfect performance, but we are working towards it and that's what we are looking for.”

As an example of Gaelic footballing excellence, it's hard to see how they can top Sunday's second half. But who are we to question them?

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