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Crossmaglen focused on raising bar

By John Campbell

One down and two to go. That’s the defiant message from Crossmaglen Rangers skipper David McKenna as his side prepares to step up their bid to remain the top club in the country.


They may not have achieved the level of performance of which they are known to be capable on their journey to retaining their Armagh crown but McKenna (pictured below) believes that Sunday’s triumph over Pearse Og can prove the catalyst for much better things to come.

“I think we are capable of much better,” maintains midfield ace McKenna.

“Along the way in the Armagh championship we were not as clinical or as polished as we can be and although we kept winning games, it could be said that we were not pleased with some of our displays.”

The Rangers have already set their sights on retaining the Ulster Club trophy which they have won on nine occasions since 1997 as well as the All-Ireland Club title which they have won on six occasions in the past.

But while delighted that Rangers have now picked up their 40th Armagh crown McKenna acknowledges that an improvement is required if they are to continue to occupy the provincial throne.

“I think we have it in us to keep our Ulster title but it will take a bigger effort,” says McKenna.

“We have not been particularly convincing lately and at times we have looked vulnerable.

“But the fact is that there is still a great hunger and pride within the squad and I believe that this will stand to us.”

His sentiments are endorsed by joint manager Tony McEntee who points to the fact that a series of injuries have caused some disruption to the team over the course of the summer.

“But we are getting players back now and that is encouraging,” explains McEntee.

“Stephen Kernan had been out for a while and he came on as a sub against Pearse Og while other players have also been feeling their way back. Jamie Clarke of course has come back from the United States and is as sharp as ever although we are still missing Danny O’Callaghan and Franny Hanratty who, of course, have emigrated.”

McEntee is hoping, though, that his side can now eradicate their tendency to leak goals — something that concerned him in the build-up to Sunday’s county final.

“It’s a fact that we were leaking goals through the Armagh championship and that did not help us,” admits McEntee.

“But we managed to keep a clean sheet in this respect on Sunday due in no small measure to our goalkeeper Paul Hearty who was very commanding throughout.

“The fact, too, that we scored three goals gave us a psychological boost and helped us to close out the game.”

Crossmaglen will meet the winners of the Donegal championship in the Ulster Club quarter-finals and McEntee and his management partner Gareth O’Neill have already

taken on board the fact that reigning champions Glenswilly were surprisingly beaten by Dungloe last Sunday.

Naomh Conaill, who reached the Ulster Club final two years ago only to fall to Crossmaglen, are still in the hunt for the title along with a very strong St Eunan’s side.

McEntee is adamant that the Ulster Club series has the potential to throw up some fascinating ties.

“You have sides like St Gall’s, Mullahoran, Errigal Ciaran, Tempo, Ballybay and ourselves in there already and this could prove an interesting competition indeed,” states McEntee.

The competition will get under way this Sunday when Tyrone kingpins Errigal Ciaran will take on Cavan champions Mullahoran in a preliminary round tie that holds considerable appeal.

Belfast Telegraph


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