Crossmaglen Rangers manager Donal Murtagh has the welcome mat out for Aaron Kernan’s return home from the International Rules series in Australia.
The cultured defender played his part in helping Ireland achieve their series victory but now Murtagh wants him to turn in a five-star display when the Rangers take on newly-crowned Fermanagh champions St Patrick’s (Donagh) in the AIB Ulster Club quarter-final on Sunday.
“Obviously we were pleased that the Ulster Council gave us a reprieve by not fixing our match for last Sunday because of Aaron’s absence but now we have got to be very focussed for St Patrick’s,” said Murtagh.
His team lived dangerously against Armagh Harps in their county championship semi-final before being fully extended for two-thirds of the final by a gritty Pearse Og side.
Now Murtagh is keen to see his side give full rein to their skills against their Fermanagh opponents who will be sampling Ulster Club action for the first time in their history.
As reigning provincial champions, the Rangers, now the proud holders of thirteen consecutive Armagh titles, will be favourites to advance to the semi-finals but the wily Murtagh is taking nothing for granted.
“Obviously we would like to keep our Ulster crown. But there are some very good teams in there and St Patrick’s will be keen to do well,” observed Murtagh.
Rangers will have their full platoon of county aces on view - Francie Bellew, Paul Hearty, Stephen Kernan, Tony Kernan, Oisin McConville and of course Aaron Kernan - while St Patrick’s will look to
Fermanagh players Shane McDermott and Patrick Cadden to inspire their side.
McDermott, who is equally at home at both centre-half-back and midfield, captained Fermanagh when they reached the All Ireland semi-finals in 2004 and has been a driving force within the St Patrick’s side for several years. Cadden is a prolific free-taker who is capable of punishing the Rangers should they display any element of indiscipline.
One man who will be taking more than a passing interest in the outcome of the match will be St Eunan’s manager Eamonn O’Boyle whose side beat Tyrone champions Clonoe in the quarter-final last Sunday.
The Donegal champions are due to meet the winners of next Sunday’s contest in the semi-final. And O’Boyle plans to undertake his homework in advance.
Meanwhile, Fermanagh full-forward Liam McBarron saw his club Kilmacud Crokes show no ill-effects from their recent busy schedule in the Dublin football championship by taking a 0-13 to 0-8 win over first-time Kildare champions Celbridge.
Kilmacud fired on all cylinders in the opening half and led by 0-9 to 0-3 at the break, with Mark Vaughan firmly on song.
But it wasn’t all positive news for Crokes who paid dearly for a momentary lapse of indiscipline midway through the first half with Cian O’Sullivan shown a straight red card. But they held on to win in the end.