Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 31 July 2014

Rangers need to find a higher gear says Murtagh

Crossmaglen Rangers manager Donal Murtagh was left with mixed emotions following his sides arrival in yet another AIB Ulster Club provincial final in Clones yesterday.



His team may have eventually managed to snuff out the effervescent challenge of Dromore but Murtagh knew that it was certainly not all sweetness and light.

"Certainly not" he declared, "They were stronger in midfield but people must remember that we have young players like David McKenna who are still maturing. We knew Dromore were going to be very tough opponents and that's exactly how it turned out."

And Murtagh acknowledged that his side have some work to do in advance of next Sunday's decider against St Galls in Newry (2.00pm).

"We made things hard for ourselves in the second half - we had built up a cushion with the two first half goals but they came at us very strongly in the third quarter.

"While it is a great relief to be back in the Ulster final, we must be aware that we face a big task against St Galls who will obviously be very hungry for provincial success," added Murtagh.

Martin Aherne, the Rangers two goal hero, confirmed afterwards that yesterday was only his second meaningful match of the year.

"I broke my collarbone at the start of the season and have been out until very recently. To have got back into the side was a bonus but to get two goals is just unbelievable. When I punched the first one, to tell you the truth the ball could have went anywhere and after the keeper saved my shot initially, I was lucky enough to be able to follow up and get the second one over the line. Some days things go for you and other days they don't," smiled the modest 22-year-old painter and decorator.

Dromore boss Noel McGinn heaped praise on his team afterwards, alluding to their character and commitment over the course of the year as a whole.

"I have some very disappointed boys in that dressing room in there but I have told them they have nothing to be disappointed about. They have done themselves, their families and their club proud and all they were missing in this game was the slice of luck they needed to see them over the finishing line," asserted McGinn.

The former Tyrone defender poured scorn on pre-match media speculation that suggested the Tyrone vs Armagh element to the contest might lead to "a virtual bloodbath."

McGinn said: "There wasn't a foul blow in the match. It was a thrilling game well-handled by Joe McQuillen and both teams showed they have no time for nonsense. I am very, very proud of the part my boys have played and I know they will come back even stronger next year given the experience they have gained this term."

McGinn's success in taking Dromore to their first Tyrone title in 71 years has enhanced his own status as a manager of repute but he was clearly anxious to deflect all the credit onto his players.

"They're the boys who stood up to be counted when it was most needed. They came back from five points down to draw level with Rangers are a wee rub of the green might even have seen us win. But it was not to be," he sighed ruefully.

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