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Boss Oisin McConville is making sure Crossmaglen know the score

By John Campbell

Don't concede a goal! That's the warning Crossmaglen Rangers joint-manager Oisin McConville has given his side ahead of tomorrow's All-Ireland club semi-final against Connacht champions Castlebar Mitchels at Kingspan Breffni Park, Cavan.

He said: "I have been drumming the importance of not giving away a goal into the lads all week because Castlebar are noted for finding the net and when they do, they can be extremely hard to overcome.

"They are a big, rugged, physical side but they can also play quality football. We feel we have done our homework but no matter how well you prepare, you can't legislate for everything."

McConville, an All-Ireland winner with Armagh in 2002 and one of the most decorated players in the history of the game at club level, believes that goals in major matches have now become "game-changers".

"Take a look at some of the final scores from last Sunday's Allianz League games and you will see just how close they were," maintained McConville.

"Generally, the team that gets a goal or maybe two wins. If we were to concede a goal it could impact our morale and we don't want that to happen. Goals can be game-changers at this level."

Veteran goalkeeper Paul Hearty will lead the Rangers into action against a Castlebar side that, like their opponents, boasts a generous ration of top players.

McConville singles out Patrick Durkan, Tom Cunniffe, Barry Moran and the talented Feeneys, Richie and Alan, as constituting a big threat to his side.

"They have players who have done the business for Mayo and won't baulk at the challenge," said McConville. "We have to keep things as tight as we can. We cannot afford to let Castlebar off the leash because they have already shown that they can kill sides off. If they get a goal or two, we would find ourselves chasing the game and that's something we are very anxious to avoid."

Jamie Clarke, Michael McNamee and the Kernan brothers Stephen and Tony are expected to be key figures in the Rangers attack while Johnny Hanratty will bolster the midfield with James Morgan and Aaron Kernan the defensive generals.

The Rangers made an inauspicious start to the Armagh championship last year before gaining in fluency and cohesion in winning the Ulster club title and McConville is hopeful that the upward graph in their performance levels will again be reflected.

"We have numerous players who are used to the big occasions and they can wield a big influence," added McConville.

JUST when he'd begun to detect light at the end of the tunnel in terms of unavailability of a raft of key players, Armagh boss Kieran McGeeney finds himself confronted by a potential triple setback.

Ethan Rafferty limped out of UUJ's Sigerson Cup win over St Mary's on Wednesday with a hamstring problem, Ruairi McCaughley shipped a heavy knock against Laois and Ciaron O'Hanlon has endured a traumatic week which saw him miss out on the Queen's defeat against University of Limerick yesterday.

An eleventh-hour hearing of his appeal against a 12-week ban for his failure to attend an earlier appeal on Saturday against a similar penalty imposed after he was deemed ineligible to have been in the Queen's side that beat Maynooth last Wednesday saw him miss the match yesterday.

In addition, should Crossmaglen Rangers overcome Castlebar Mitchels in the All-Ireland Club semi-final tomorrow, then McGeeney could be without their tranche of county aces for the remainder pf the league.

McGeeney's worries are compounded by the fact that his team is still rooted pointless at the bottom of the Allianz League Division Two table and faces a must-win game against Fermanagh when the action resumes on February 27.

If Crossmaglen manage to overcome Castlebar, the likes of James Morgan, Tony Kernan and Paul McKeown would be off the inter-county radar until after the St Patrick's Day final against Clonmel Commercials or Ballyboden St Enda's who meet in tomorrow's other semi-final.

"Hopefully for our next game we will have people like Andy Mallon, Kevin Dyas, Ciaran McKeever and Andrew Murnin back on board," reflects McGeeney (pictured).

"We have a good few overall to come back in and obviously we have to see how Crossmaglen Rangers do. The more players that come back in, the more it will help increase competition for places."

Belfast Telegraph


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