Crossmaglen Rangers strode into the history books yesterday when they equalled the record of county titles won in succession by Ballina Stephenites.
In chalking up their 13th Armagh championship title on the trot, the Rangers fired out a message that they have no intention of abdicating their throne.
And now that they have eased themselves further into the national record books, the Rangers have made it clear that retaining their AIB Ulster Club title is their next target.
“We are delighted to have won our 13th title. Pearse Og put it up to us but thankfully we came through. Now we want to go on and keep our Ulster crown if we can,” said manager Donal Murtagh afterwards.
But even Murtagh conceded that the Rangers mission yesterday was eased somewhat when Pearse Og were forced to start without defensive kingpin Andy Mallon and lost another county star in wing-back Paul Duffy with a shoulder injury after just two minutes.
They may have failed in the end to halt the Rangers juggernaut but the Ogs certainly were not found wanting on the twin scores of commitment and courage.
Indeed, Rangers had to rely heavily on unerring accuracy of Oisin McConville and Aaron Kernan from frees to see them through while a catalogue of unforced second-half errors by Ogs ultimately undermined their feisty challenge.
McConville bagged half-a-dozen points in all and Kernan landed just one less — all these scores were from frees — with John McEntee contributing the winners only two points from play.
Ronan Clarke, who collected an All-Star award on Friday night, worked hard to inspire Pearse Og and his three first half points helped his side to stay in touch at 0-6 to 0-5 at the interval as did the efforts of Gerard Barton and Sean Moore in midfield.
The Ogs defiance might have reached an even higher level had Ross Clarke not screwed his shot inches wide with the goal at his mercy in the ninth minute — as it was, the Armagh city side took comfort from splendid points from play by Moore and Gregory Loughran as well as Clarke’s triple strike.
But it was in the third quarter that Rangers, despite playing against the wind, unleashed their experience and craft to curb their opponents’ momentum and gradually ease into a more commanding position with McConville helping himself to four points between the 37th and 50th minutes that effectively provided the platform for victory.
Pearse Og strove hard to claw their way back into the contest but Rangers clinically close out the contest to extend their domestic reign for yet another year.
CROSSMAGLEN RANGERS: P Hearty; M Ahern, F Bellew, P McKeown; A Kernan (0-5, all frees), J Donaldson, P Kernan; T McEntee, D McKenna; M McNamee, J McEntee (0-2), J Clarke; T Kernan, C Short, O McConville (0-6, all frees). Substitutes: J Murtagh for Clarke (37 mins), K Carragher for Short (60 mins). Yellow cards: McConville (3 mins), Bellew (26 mins), Donaldson (30 mins).
PEARSE OG: C McKinney; G McCoy, M Toner, A Duffy; C Rafferty, J P Donnelly, P Duffy; G Barton, S Moore (0-2), G Loughran (0-2), C Clarke, D McAuley; D McManus, Ronan Clarke (0-4, 0-3 frees), Ross Clarke. Substitutes: T Turley for S Gribben (45 mins), S Clarke for Moore (52 mins), E Maguire for Ross Clarke (54 mins). Yellow cards: Duffy (5 mins), McCoy (38 mins), Loughran (46 mins).
Referee: Rory Robinson (Maghery).