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Murtagh wants to see clear daylight at Newry

By John Campbell

Crossmaglen Rangers have won their two games to date in the AIB Ulster Club Football Championship by a single point margin and that's far too close for comfort for team manager Donal Murtagh.

When his men confront an upbeat St Galls side in tomorrow's provincial decider at Pairc Esler, Newry (2.00), the Rangers boss will be seeking a much more accomplished performance from his side.

"Some of these days we are going to fire on all cylinders. Let's hope that day is tomorrow," muses Murtagh.

His desire to see a much more streamlined effort from his side is understandable. The Rangers even toiled throughout the first-half of their Armagh county final against Pearse Og before finally quenching their fire after the break and then almost came a cropper against Clontibret, controversy surrounding their narrow victory.

The gods smiled on them yet again last Sunday when Dromore's Shaun O'Neill was presented with an opportunity from a free to tie the game in the saying moment but miscued much to the consternation of his team's big following.

The Rangers breathed again but Murtagh now wants the oxygen of a more composed display to sustain them against a St Galls side who have already beaten Cavan Gaels and Glenullin in the Ulster Club Championship.

Their mix of steely defence and stylish attack proved a potent cocktail in both games and his fired confidence for tomorrow's rather more daunting mission.

Yet the manner in which Mark McCrory and Sean Burke have been blending in the St Galls midfield, the cool authority of a defence underpinned by Andrew McClean, Simon Kennedy and Sean Kelly and the opportunism of Kevin Niblock, Kevin McGourty and Karl Stewart in an attack that, while guilty of wastefulness on occasions so far, has still managed to put away sufficient scores to confirm that they are viable candidates for the provincial title.

St Galls have Rangers manager Murtagh among their admirers, too.

" They are a tough, experienced, disciplined team who know how to attack and how to keep the ball. The fact that they have been on a winning streak lately will stand to them," maintains Murtagh who will be looking to goalkeeper Paul Hearty, full-back Tony McEntee and wing-back Aaron Kernan to lead the resistance to the Antrim champions.

With Stephen Kernan still a doubt and both John Donaldson and Cathal Short ruled out through suspension, Rangers are shorn of a ration of experience that would certainly not go amiss given the quality contained in this St Galls side which has won six of the last seven Antrim championship titles.

But their appetite for success is far from satiated, according to secretary Vincent Ward.

"While we are delighted to have won those Antrim titles there is no doubt that we want another Ulster crown. We have only won it once since the dawn of the new millennium and we feel we have not quite done ourselves justice on the provincial stage," says Ward.

His team will get their big chance tomorrow to do just that against the best side in the country over the course of the past decade.

Belfast Telegraph


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