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Crossmaglen will look close to home in hunt for new boss

By John Campbell

Crossmaglen Rangers have never strayed beyond their own club boundary when it has come to choosing a team manager.

And this policy looks certain to be adhered to as the quest to replace Tony McEntee and Gareth O'Neill is set to be stepped up over the forthcoming weeks.

While the duo's decision to step down did not come as a major surprise given they had intimated at the outset that they sought to serve for only two years rather than the three for which they remained at the helm, nonetheless the level of success they maintained means they will now be an extremely difficult act to follow.

Already Tony McEntee's brother John is being mentioned as the new boss although the fact that his wife has just given birth to another child may preclude him from throwing his hat into the ring.

It was as manager of Crossmaglen's neighbours Culloville for two years until last year that John, a key member of the Armagh side that won the All-Ireland title in 2002, proved himself a shrewd tactician and robust motivator.

Culloville had drifted along in comparative obscurity until John's feisty approach and demand for greater pride in the jersey saw the side reach the closing stages of the Ulster Club Intermediate championship in his first season in charge.

Then last year they reached the quarter-finals of the Armagh senior championship only to fall to a strong St Patrick's Cullyhanna side. Like his brother Tony, John has contributed enormously to the Rangers club as a player.

There is also speculation that Ulster boss Joe Kernan might be persuaded to take charge again having triggered the Rangers' catalogue of triumphs when he led the side to Armagh, Ulster and All-Ireland final glory in 1997.

Four of Kernan's five sons – Aaron, Paul, Tony and Stephen – are currently first-choice players with Rangers.

"I am enjoying my role as manager of Ulster but to take on the job of Crossmaglen manager again would impose a lot of demands and I would have to give all aspects of this serious consideration," says Kernan. "Tony and Gareth did a magnificent job and deserve the plaudits of all of us."

• TYRONE county board have imposed a ban, with a right of appeal, on the person that they have identified as spitting at the reigning Player of the Year, Donegal's Karl Lacey, in the wake of the stormy National League encounter at Healy Park on Sunday.

What might surprise many is that the Tyrone Competition Control Committee is imposing the punishment, considering that the game was a national fixture.

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