Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Experience will be the real key for us: Murtagh

Ask Crossmaglen Rangers manager Donal Murtagh as to what he attributes his side's progress into the AIB Ulster Club football final to and he'll unhesitatingly proffer a one-word reply: "Experience."

And seldom has this particular quality been more amply illustrated than in last Sunday's hard-earned semi-final win against Clontibret.

Now Murtagh, who gave outstanding service to the Rangers as a teak-tough full-back for many years before donning the manager's hat, wants his old guard to step up to the plate even more prominently in Sunday's decider against Ballinderry Shamrocks.

"Last Sunday we were leading by four points at half-time but Clontibret came out with all guns blazing at the start of the second-half. They pulled it back to one point and had us under pressure and it took two or three points from our experienced players in the last few minutes to eventually get us through," admits Murtagh.

"In this respect, experience really told in the end."

In Ballinderry, his Rangers outfit will be meeting a side imbued with physical and mental strength - assuming they are at full strength, that is.

Major doubts surround experienced defenders Niall McCusker and Paul Wilson. Both are having intensive treatment but may not make the cut.

McCusker did not start against Errigal and his commanding defensive presence was missed.

Crossmaglen, too, have their own injury worries. Aaron Kernan is definitely out while his brother Stephen and full-back Francie Bellew are still trying to shake off achilles tendon and shoulder injuries respectively.

And there is some concern about a knock that flying forward Michael McNamee picked up against Clontibret last Sunday.

The flame-haired attacking ace was forced to come off but manager Murtagh is hopeful that he will have fully recovered.

Given the circumstances it's hardly surprising that Murtagh will be placing so much faith in his old hands.

"John McEntee, Tony McEntee, Oisin McConville, John Donaldson and others can show the way. Ballinderry have come through two tough games against Errigal Ciaran and like ourselves they have had not had the benefit of any real recovery time," says Murtagh.