Rory factor can blast Crossmaglen to title joy
Rangers lads inspired by the McIlroy magic, says Hanratty
Midfield ace Johnny Hanratty is in no doubt as to just what can prove a prime source of inspiration for Crossmaglen Rangers when they meet Westmeath and Leinster champions Garrycastle in the AIB All-Ireland club football final at Croke Park today.
Hanratty, one of several golfing enthusiasts in the Ulster champions’ line-up, believes that Rory McIlroy’s feat in becoming No 1 in the world provides the perfect spur for Rangers in their bid to retain their national crown.
“We followed Rory’s progress very closely and you can take it that we will be trying to take a leaf out of his book,” states 24-year-old Hanratty.
“The boys here take their golf very seriously and they all admire the way in which Rory has achieved colossal success.
“Having won the All-Ireland club title last year we maybe needed something to help keep our appetites sharp this year and Rory has done that for us.”
But the strapping engine-room dynamo admits that Rangers will have to “throw our weight around a bit more” if they are to make it six All-Ireland titles since 1997.
“Garrycastle are a big, physical team and they will test us. We have to be prepared for a battle,” insists Hanratty.
He will be partnered by David McKenna in the middle of the park and is steeling himself for what he feels will be “an energetic shift” as the Rangers bid for further glory.
“David is a better fielder of the ball than I am and tends to play more of a holding role,” insists Hanratty who works in the family home heating oil business.
“This means that I will be up and down the pitch more and there is no arena that will test your stamina more than Croke Park. I am going to have to put in an energetic shift but I am ready for that.”
It is only recently that Hanratty has blossomed into a quality midfielder having served as full-forward for several years.
Yet his instincts as a forward, honed during several Rangers’ triumphs, continue to serve the club well.
“I like to push up at every opportunity but I certainly don’t see myself as a finisher any longer,” smiles Hanratty. He is the holder of five Armagh championship medals, four Ulster gongs and two All-Ireland club accolades.
And with the hunger for success within the Crossmaglen club showing no signs of abating, more honours could be on the way for him.
“Just like Rory McIlroy, we want to keep on winning for as long as we possibly can,” adds Hanratty.
It’s a sentiment that is enthusiastically endorsed by his colleagues, particularly Aaron Cunningham.
Indeed, should Rangers find themselves with their backs against the wall today, wing-forward Cunningham, whose father Joey gave outstanding service to Portadown in the Irish League, certainly won’t complain.
In fact, the 22-year-old UUJ student will positively relish the challenge based on his experiences since he came into the side.
“To be honest, we seem to play better when we are confronted with adversity,” reveals Cunningham, “I don’t quite know why that should be but it is a fact. We seem to do better when we are under pressure — I wish it were different and that we could win games easily but we certainly have not been making a habit of that.”
Cunningham’s deft scoring touch and clever running off the ball allied to the lethal finishing skills of Oisin McConville and Jamie Clarke have highlighted the Rangers attacking philosophy over the past two seasons.
But he is adamant that Rangers need to deliver a big performance if they are to succeed today.
“I think it’s maybe instilled in us that we can’t help but give our supporters heart attacks all the time,” smiles Cunningham.
“But, seriously, I believe that there is a big performance within this side and I have a feeling that we could produce it this time round.”
The last time Rangers landed back to back All-Ireland titles was in the 1999-2000 seasons and to replicate that feat they will now have to curb the scoring threat of the superbly consistent Dessie Dolan in particular as well as cope efficiently with the physicality of the Garrycastle side.
The Westmeath outfit, skippered by full-back John Gaffey, a sales negotiator, include the vastly-experienced David O’Shaughnessy at midfield and as well as dangerous duo Gary Dolan and James Duignan in their attack.
But Rangers’ commitment, skill and pride are attributes that could take them to their ultimate goal.