New era for Champions

September 9, 2013

When defending Armagh and Ulster champions Crossmaglen Rangers take to the field next Friday night, against Pearse Og at the Athletic Grounds, it will mark the beginning of a new era for this much vaunted, most decorated of club sides.

Friday night sees Crossmaglen enter the Championship for the first time in 20 years without the services of their most prolific all- time scorer  Oisin McConville, who retired following last year’s All-Ireland semi-final defeat to St Brigid’s (Roscommon). Quite simply, Oisin is irreplaceable but the champions have responded well to the retirements of their previous former stars.

The first of the four quarter finals on Friday night is a repeat of last year’s final and a return to championship club action for Joe Kernan. Joe, who set Rangers on the road to unimaginable glory back in 1995 took over the reins following the departure of twice All-Ireland and Triple Ulster champions duo Tony McEntee and Gareth O’Neill. Og’s, in 2009, are the only club outside of Cross to get their name on the Gerry Fegan Cup in the last 17 years.

On Saturday at the Athletic Grounds, Ballymacnab, beaten finalists in 2011, take on Granemore who have been knocking on the door of championship glory in recent years. Sunday sees a double header at the county ground with St Patrick’s, Cullyhanna still seeking a first final appearance, up against 1990 champions and 1992 beaten finalists Sarsfields. The second match is between 4 times winners Carrickcruppen, last triumph back in 1982, an era when they contested 5 finals in a row, take on Maghery who have lost the 4 finals which they have been in, the last being 20 years ago. The word on the street is that the champions are vulnerable and there for the taking so all of the seven other contenders will be fancying their chances.   See inside pages for previews and predictions.