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New kids on the block keep Crossmaglen to the fore

By Colm Keys

The faces may change from time to time but still the titles keep tumbling the way of Crossmaglen Rangers.

When they face St Patrick's in Sunday's Armagh senior football championship decider, Joe Kernan's outfit will be seeking their 17th domestic accolade in 18 years.

It's a feat that is unlikely ever to be surpassed and even a significant changing of the guard does not alter the fact that Rangers have already been accommodated in their traditional berth as favourites.

Jamie Clarke, James Morgan, Paul Kernan and Ronan Finnegan will again be absent when Rangers bid to extend their dominance of the orchard county scene but midfield ace Johnny Hanratty believes that the form of new kids on the block such as Kyle Brennan, Calum Comiskey, Paul Hughes and Garvan Carragher has much to do with the voracious hunger that the team as a whole continues to embody.

Brennan and Comiskey in particular were handed important roles earlier in the year when they were asked to fill the boots of the recently-retired Oisin McConville and the US-based Jamie Clarke in the full-forward line and such has been their impact that Rangers journey into the county final has been a relatively straightforward exercise.

Hanratty, likely to be partnered by Tony Kernan on Sunday even though David McKenna is challenging strongly for a midfield berth, insists that the newcomers are keeping the more established competitors on their toes.

"We have always been able to plug any gaps that arise," contends Hanratty. "Down through the years we have lost different players but we always managed to find replacements.

"I think people were of the opinion that when James Morgan and Jamie in particular were ruled out that we might struggle but that has certainly not been the case."

Their imposing record makes them the most feared club side in the country but Rangers continue to exercise caution even when the odds are stacked in their favour.

"We are looking no further than Sunday," confirms Hanratty. "It would be foolish to do otherwise. We have boys like Kyle Brennan, Calum Cumiskey and Kyle Carragher who are now in the side and they are pushing the rest of us on.

"You know that if you don't come up to the mark there will be someone there to replace you. We also have another couple of boys back from injury who weren't around last year so the situation tends to balance itself out."

The form of Brennan and Cumiskey in particular lends substance to the belief that the Rangers will not only retain their Armagh crown but go on and win another Ulster title.

"That's always a possibility. We have Joe Kernan back in there as manager and he knows the ropes well having been there before. We're all putting our shoulders to the wheel and hopefully we will win another county title on Sunday, but we know that St Patrick's will be very keen to come up trumps," adds Hanratty.

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