Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 26 July 2014

McEntee glad of strength in depth in bid for glory

Crossmaglen Rangers manager Tony McEntee may have injury concerns surrounding three of his most experienced players, but he is nowhere near touching distance of the panic button.

The Rangers will bid to cement the stunning statistic of landing 17 Armagh titles within 18 years when they meet Pearse Og in Sunday’s county championship decider and while McEntee would welcome the involvement of his more battle-hardened troops, his bench is almost groaning under a weight of teenage talent.

Paul McKeown, who led the side to All-Ireland glory in 2010, along with brothers Paul and Stephen Kernan have missed recent matches because of injury, but all three are still hoping to play some part in Sunday’s final.

McKeown’s deep-seated injury has forced him to miss a substantial part of this year to date while Paul Kernan has damaged his shoulder for the second time this year and Stephen has still to make a full recovery after suffering a thigh strain.

With Franny Hanratty and Danny O’Callaghan having emigrated, Rangers’ treasure trove of experience is further depleted, but the possible absence of such an accomplished quintet means that players such as Garvin Carragher, Calum Comiskey and Ronan Finnegan could get another opportunity to prove their worth.

And these young guns provide McEntee with considerable optimism as he approaches a game which he feels will fully test the mettle of his side.

“Several younger players have been coming through in recent times and they are clearly very keen to follow in the footsteps of those who have helped to create the tradition which we enjoy,” says McEntee.

“Whatever success we have enjoyed in the recent past does not guarantee us anything for the future and that’s why we will be picking our steps very carefully against Pearse Og who have shown in the championship to date that they are a very good side.”

Injuries and emigration may surely dilute Rangers resources, but McEntee (pictured) can turn to Paul Hearty, James Morgan, Aaron Kernan, Aaron Cunningham, Oisin McConville, Tony Kernan, Martin Ahern, Michael McNamee, David McKenna and Brendan McKeown to provide the backbone of a side that has already shown it is clearly intent on adding to its already considerable laurels.

Rangers PRO Tom McKay lobs yet another incentive into the Rangers’ motivational mantra when he says: “If we manage to win on Sunday, it would be our 40th county title.

“It is worth pointing out that we were never a dominant force in Armagh until quite recently, but now that we are where we are we certainly don’t want to fall from grace.

“We are looking no further than Sunday’s match, although we would, of course, love to retain our Ulster and All-Ireland championships.”

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