Joe Kernan: Crossmaglen get day in the sun, just like goalscorer Francie
Crossmaglen has not one but two ‘firsts’ to celebrate just now. The village will host the All Ireland Football Championship opening round qualifier between Armagh and Donegal on Saturday week — and Francie Bellew has just scored his first goal for the local Rangers club.
Oliver Plunkett Park has been the venue for many National League games in recent years while the Athletic Grounds has been undergoing major refurbishment but now it will host an All Ireland Championship match for the first time. There is a tremendous air of anticipation within the area as Armagh prepare to atone for their setback at the hands of Monaghan in the Ulster Championship.
I am certain that the ground at which an immaculate new playing surface was laid just recently will be packed to capacity for the visit of John Joe Doherty’s side. Armagh will have pleasant memories of their win over Donegal at Letterkenny in the National League but that’s what they should remain — just memories. What happened in that game will have not any bearing on the outcome.
And while the current Armagh squad prepare for a major test one of the players who served the team well for many years has just achieved a rare individual feat. Francie Bellew is noted for his defensive strength and resilience so it was quite a surprise when he cracked in a goal for Crossmaglen Rangers against great rivals Dromintee.
No one could recall Francie ever scoring a goal before and the man who played full-back in the Armagh side that won the All Ireland title in 2002 is still basking in the reflected glory of his club feat.
The theory is being offered that Francie felt he should step into the shoes of the normally free-scoring Oisin McConville who was on holiday and missed the game but this cannot be substantiated!