Armagh manager Paddy O’Rourke will definitely be without his Crossmaglen Rangers contingent for his team’s two important Allianz Football League encounters with Monaghan and Down in the second half of this month.
It has now been confirmed that Rangers will meet Dublin and Leinster champions Kilmacud Cokes in the All Ireland Club football championship semi-final at Pairc Tailteann, Navan on Sunday, February 27 — the same day on which the orchard county will be renewing their great rivalry with neighbours Down at Newry.
And on the previous Sunday, Armagh will be hosting Monaghan at the Athletic Grounds, a match that has now assumed added spice following the Farney county’s impressive 0-19 to 0-14 victory over fancied Galway at the weekend.
Crossmaglen trio Paul Hearty (goalkeeper), Aaron Kernan (wing-back) and Jamie Clarke (corner-forward) would almost certainly be in the Armagh line-up if they were available but O’Rourke is resigned to being without their services.
“We will just have to exercise more patience as we await their return and that of one or two other players. Obviously the fixture against Kilmacud is huge for Crossmaglen and they are very focussed on success,” says O’Rourke.
Against Dublin at the week-end, Armagh goalkeeper Philip McAvoy conceded two goals — O’Rourke later described them as “awful goals” — while his kick-outs were somewhat erratic.
And the overriding feeling among the big contingent of home supporters was that Kernan’s smooth distribution and ability to turn defence into attack would certainly have helped to bolster the side.
Armagh fans indeed are waiting impatiently to see the hugely talented Jamie Clarke and more seasoned Ronan Clarke restored to the attack.
While they may have to wait a little longer to see the former in the county colours, there is a suggestion from Ronan himself that he might figure against either Monaghan or Down.
“I feel good but it’s match sharpness that I need,” insists the 2002 All Ireland winner.
“I would like to think that I might be able to contribute something in perhaps one of these games if the manager thought I was able to do so.”