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Armagh will suffer in face of Crossmaglen success

By John Campbell

Armagh manager Paddy O’Rourke could find himself stripped of the services of several players for the start of the National Football League should Crossmaglen Rangers reach the semi-final stages of the All Ireland Club Championship.

Rangers will meet Donegal champions Naomh Conaill in the Ulster Club final next Sunday at St Tiernach’s Park, Clones and should they win there they will be in action again on the following Sunday when they are due to meet the British champions in London in an All Ireland Club quarter-final.

Given the rich vein of form which Rangers have shown recently it is reasonable to assume that should they capture the provincial trophy for what would be the eighth time in 15 years, then they would be red-hot favourites to advance to the last four of the All Ireland series.

O’Rourke, who has closely monitored Crossmaglen’s progress from the outset of the Armagh championship, would then be missing players like Paul Hearty, Aaron Kernan, Jamie Clarke, Tony Kernan and David McKenna for Armagh’s opening National League games.

The orchard county commence their programme against Dublin at the Athletic Grounds on Saturday February 5 and it is also envisaged that this match will mark the unveiling of the impressive new grandstand at the refurbished venue.

While an early home win over the Dubs would undoubtedly be a massive boost for Armagh, manager O’Rourke is taking a cautious approach.

“We will see how things go. Obviously Crossmaglen Rangers have been making great progress and they are now in the Ulster Club final,” says O’Rourke.

“We have been looking at them in some detail but until their championship commitments end we would have to assume that their players would not be available to us.”

The absence of Crossmaglen’s more experienced troops would be a setback for Armagh but O’Rourke remains confident that the squad which he is assembling will provide him with the framework for a team that can match Pat Gilroy’s side which is certain to include high-flying sharpshooter Bernard Brogan.

Armagh PRO Joe Jordan believes that the visit of Dublin at such an early stage of the year will provide the perfect challenge for O’Rourke’s men to launch their league campaign on the right note and he suggests that the capacity of the new-look Athletic Grounds could be tested for the game.

“I honestly believe that if the weather is half-decent we will have a bumper crowd and this will create a brilliant atmosphere,” said Jordan.

“We are hardly half-way through the close season and would you believe fans are calling all the time to check on details of this particular game — what does that tell you.”

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