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Paul Hearty hungry for more medals with Crossmaglen Rangers

By John Campbell

It's an impressive tally – 17 Armagh championship medals, 10 Ulster club gongs and six All-Ireland honours.

That's a litany of individual success that in the past might have been deemed improbable but then anyone who has graced the colours of Crossmaglen Rangers for exactly 20 years could surely be considered to have defied convention.

In a team that has re-written the history books, goalkeeper Paul Hearty stands head and shoulders above his colleagues in every sense.

Competition for places since the mid-90s has never been anything less than intense yet incredibly the 36-year-old 6ft 4in Hearty reckons he has missed just seven club championship matches in all that time.

And if his majestic haul of honours at club level is unlikely to be surpassed, then his five Ulster championship medals with Armagh stand comparison to feats considered legendary in the inter-county sector.

Today Hearty, a father-of-three who daily fulfils an early morning milk delivery to Dublin before returning home to undertake domestic duties prior to dashing off to training, reveals the same enthusiasm and commitment he displayed as a fledgling 16-year-old when he was first parachuted between the posts.

He was still wet behind the ears when the honours began to flow and then morphed into a way of life, fuelling his pride and embellishing his approach.

With an Ulster championship quarter-final against new Down champions Kilcoo looming on Sunday week, Hearty's obsessive fitness regime has seldom been as pronounced.

"I honestly think this match will attract a crowd of maybe 10,000, it's the whole talk right now," said Hearty. "We are delighted to have won another Armagh title but we now have our sights set on retaining the Ulster crown. We never tire of winning.

"People would tell you that maybe we could get stale but staleness is a frame of mind and that's certainly something which is not evident in this Rangers side."

They may have encountered the odd bout of turbulence but for the best part of the past two decades Hearty and his colleagues have been in residence on the winners' rostrum. "We would never get complacent, though," he said. "Teams are always that bit keener to beat us and we always try to be as best prepared as we can for the challenges we face. When you look at the line-up in the Ulster club championship this time, you see real quality in there."

* After much speculation, it was confirmed at Monday night's county board meeting that Rory Gallagher will be Maxi Curran's assistant with the Donegal under-21 team in the season ahead.

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