No-one sure of place in Crossmaglen Rangers line-up
The notion that any Crossmaglen Rangers player is automatically guaranteed first-choice status was effectively quashed by joint manager Tony McEntee earlier in the summer.
Aaron Kernan, one of Ulster’s most decorated competitors, had just returned from his honeymoon and was relishing a return to action in the Armagh Championship as Cross set out their stall to land a 15th title in 16 years.
But 25-year-old Kernan, a fixture in the Armagh county team for several years now, had not quite bargained for the route that McEntee was about to take.
“Tony came up to me, wished me well after my wedding and honeymoon and we engaged in some small talk.
“Then he added almost as a throwaway line ‘By the way, you’re dropped for Sunday’,” recalled Kernan.
The Rangers, of course, went on to win the county crown but it can be taken as read that Kernan’s name will be among the first to be pencilled in for this Sunday’s Ulster Club Championship blockbuster against 2010 All-Ireland champions St Gall’s at Casement Park, Belfast (2.30pm).
And Kernan himself emphasises that it’s the Rangers policy of treating all players equally which has helped to cement the spirit and camaraderie within the side.
“It does not matter what you have done before, the management will select the side that they think is best-equipped for the job in hand. We all know that and we can live with it,” said Kernan.
The Rangers overcame Ballymacnab by a 25-point margin in the Armagh decider but Kernan acknowledges that this will have “no bearing” on Sunday’s game.
“We are going in against a team that is well accustomed to winning and which includes a whole heap of Antrim county players.
“They are at home too and we know that they are very keen to reclaim the Ulster club crown,” pointed out Kernan.
When the sides met in the competition last year Crossmaglen won at home but their cause was helped when Karl Stewart incurred a red card thus weakening the St Gall’s challenge.
This time round, the west Belfast side expect to be without injured duo Kevin McGourty and Aodhan Gallagher although there is a suggestion that the latter might get some game time.
The St Gall’s defence is an experienced unit with players like Ronan Gallagher, Colin Brady, Andrew McLean, Sean Kelly and Anto Healy there to lead the resistance against the Rangers front line that will include the in-form Aaron Cunningham and the predatory Jamie Clarke.
St Gall’s are not short on fire-power as Terry O’Neill, Kevin Niblock, Kieran McGourty and CJ McGourty are capable of stretching a defence in which Paul Kernan and Danny O’Callaghan are the central planks.
Armagh legend Oisin McConville could be deployed as an impact substitute for a Rangers side that should triumph.