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Crossmaglen skipper ups the ante for epic clash with Errigal

By Declan Bogue

Crossmaglen Rangers captain David McKenna had just been asked about the prospect of meeting Errigal Ciaran in the Ulster club semi-final, following the quarter-final win over St. Eunan's in the Athletic Grounds.

Instead of the usual small talk of taking it one game at a time, McKenna delivered something entirely different.

“We've our eyes firmly set on Errigal.

“We'll be hunting them down in packs, don't worry about that”, he said.

Perhaps the reason for his candour maybe to do with the fact that in this competition, Errigal are the only team in Ulster to hold an unbeaten record against the Armagh, Ulster and All-Ireland giants.

The last time they met was 2002, but time means little to two tribes who have such long memories.

Back then, Mickey Harte was seeing out his only campaign as Errigal's senior manager.

His son Mark hit 1-7 in the first game.

The series went to two replays before the Tyrone side managed to pull themselves in front.

More harmful to the reputation of Crossmaglen at the time though, was how they had managed to let two massive leads slip out of their hands in the first two games.

Ten years on, Tony McEntee is the manager. With his renowned clarity of thought, he articulates where the relationship between the two clubs is at now.

“This is a different Cross team, it's a different Errigal team”, he says. “There are tenuous links with Oisin (McConville) maybe and Enda (McGinley) and that's it. Other than that, it's completely irrelevant to us what happened in the past.

“I think the harsh reality of the past is that we were 10 points up in two matches and got beaten because of … a whole load of issues at that stage.

“But now we are beyond that and there will be no mention of it.

“We'll look at Errigal and we will focus on our job and we will move on. If we have to hang on memories of the past, there's not too much to us.”

Speaking last week, Mickey Harte glowed with anticipation and the good-feel factor around his club these days.

After their win in the county final, he talked about the feeling of being on the road again with the parishes of Errigal once again mobilised.

He feels they should not place any limits on their ambition, saying: “Traditionally, Errigal have performed well in Ulster and as they go through they do well.

“As a Tyrone team they seem to be one of the ones who do well as they go through the Ulster.

“It seems to be that they have no fear of that zone, and many players seem to raise their standards of their own game when they get there.”

He continued: “Now, having two games behind them, Mullahoran away and Ballinderry — and that was a big, big win over Ballinderry in that they are a household name — that has given them a lot of confidence.

“Errigal go into it not phased … if it is Cross, well then they know what they are dealing with.

“It's difficult for any of us to think about that at the moment when you don't know who you are going to meet, but Errigal of their own accord are definitely a formidable outfit.”

Having lost Damien McDermott to a red card in the Ballinderry game, and Caolan Tierney who departed on holiday this week, Errigal are going into the game light on firepower, but that should not affect what is shaping up to be an absolutely epic encounter between two truly great clubs.

Belfast Telegraph

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