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McManus can shoot his way to the top

The AIB Ulster Club Football Championship will have particular significance for Clontibret attacking ace Conor McManus.

The talented sharpshooter forced his way into the Monaghan squad this year and then in the county championship final against Castleblayney he showed just why Farney boss Seamus McEnaney rates him so highly.

He scored 1-5 in that game, emerging as the outstanding player on the park.

Tomorrow, the athletic McManus faces his biggest test when he confronts the Crossmaglen Rangers defence at Clones in the Ulster Club quarter-final.

He is unlikely to find the reigning Armagh, Ulster and All Ireland champions accommodating - anything but, in fact.

But McManus is still hopeful that Clontibret will be able to build on their impressive display against a Castleblayney side who pressed hard in the closing stages but were unable to pierce their opponents' resolve.

His Monaghan colleagues John Paul Mone and his brother Dessie along with Vincent Corey will be in the Clontibret side who are only too conscious that they must make virtually every chance count - and that's where McManus will have a key role.

Clontibret are relying on his pace and ball-control to provide the openings for their other forwards against a Rangers defence in which Aaron Kernan, John Donaldson and Stephen Finnegan have been playing particularly well this year.

The All Ireland champions have in David McKenna one of the best young midfielders in the country while Stephen Kernan, although still recovering from injury, is expected to be able to pull the strings from centrethreequarters to ensure that Oisin McConville, Michael McNamee and John Hanratty get the chance to shine up front.

McConville may have been troubled by his back injury earlier this week - he was hurt in a challenge match against Burren - but that is unlikely to preclude him from offering further evidence that he is one of the most lethal match-winners in the sport. He is a player who can touch a ball only infrequently during a game and yet reap a rich harvest of scores.

Clontibret's satisfaction at being back in the Ulster Club series this week-end is understandably tempered by apprehension in view of their opponents' reputation and it could well be that by the end of the contest the Rangers will have cemented their pedigree further.

But they will certainly know that they have been in a match.

Belfast Telegraph


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