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Crossmaglen Rangers told 'enjoy Christmas ... but then hard work starts'

Crossmaglen Rangers joint managers Tony McEntee and Gareth O’Neill have told their squad to make the most of the Christmas break — but with a warning to steel themselves for some hard work immediately the festive season ends.

Rangers will travel to London on January 15 to meet Neasdon Gaels in the All Ireland Club Championship quarter-finals the following day and the management have already mapped out a rigorous training programme spanning the first two weeks in January.

The Rangers players have lost no time in taking the management’s advice to enjoy themselves for now — many of them spent the weekend in Cork where they attended Stephen Kernan’s Stag celebrations.

But even though the cultured centrethreequarters is due to get married on New Year’s Eve he will still be available for the Neasdon tie.

So too will sharpshooter Oisin McConville who will tie the knot just five days after the match, on January 21.

The fact that both players will be in the frame for the cross-channel trip is a decided bonus for the Rangers with Tony McEntee left to reflect on the huge competition there is for places in the side.

Francie Bellew and John McEntee have been very impressive as impact substitutes lately, Martin Ahern and Michael McNamee are

coveting starting places in the attack, Kyle Carragher may get the chance to show his paces and Tony Kernan will be available again even though he received a red card in the Ulster Club final against Naomh Conaill.

“We thought maybe that our game against Neasdon Gaels would not take place until the end of January but now that the date has been decided we are very focused on the tie,” says McEntee.

“The boys will now have a break over Christmas and rightly so as they have been going strong for the past number of months.

“But it will be back to porridge from New Year’s Day. There are a lot of players eyeing starting places and that’s the way we want it. Everyone wants to be part of the action.”

There is another bonus on the horizon for the Rangers management, too. Brendan McKeown, who suffered a bad leg injury two months ago, is well on the way to recovery and is hopeful of reclaiming his place in the half-back line sooner rather than later.

“Obviously we have options open to us but we are not counting our chickens. We will see how things go in training between now and the Neasdon game. There is a lot to play for — to get into the All Ireland Club semi-finals would be absolutely tremendous for us,” says Tony McEntee.

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