No slip-up this time

February 17, 2009

Crossmaglen Rangers v  Dromcolloger-Broadford

Saturday 21st February in Pearse Park, Longford 2.30pm

There is only one way to describe the AIB All-Ireland club semi-final at Pearse Park, Longford between Crossmaglen Rangers and Dromcollogher-Broadford, – a real live David versus Goliath contest.

At the start of the campaign nobody would have thought or dreamt that Crossmaglen Rangers, the most successful club team in modern times, would  have Limerick opponents barring their way to a fifth club final appearance. When the Armagh champions were basking in the glory of a second All-Ireland title and a fourth Armagh championship in a row in 1999, Saturday’s opponents Dromcollogher-Broadford were preparing for a millennium that would see them playing senior football for the first time in their history.

A decade down the line Rangers C.V. since 1996 reads 4 All-Irelands, 7 Ulster titles, 13 Armagh titles in a row but equally impressive in their own right stands the Dromcollogher-Broadford achievement of annexing 4 Limerick titles and a first ever Munster club title. Drom-Broadford became the first Limerick team since Thomond College in 1977 (they went on to win the All-Ireland) to capture the Munster title.

The Limerick champions made everyone sit up and take notice when they ousted record holding All-Ireland club champions Nemo Rangers (Cork) 0-7 to 0-6 in the Munster semi-final. Even with that scalp under their belt, they were not favorites to land the title over final opponents Kilmurray-Ibrickane from Clare. Dromcollogher-Broadford defied the odds for the second time to make club history. The big question is will they be able to pull off the biggest shock of all next Saturday in Longford?

The low scoring Munster campaign that saw one point wins recorded 0-7 to 0-6 and 0-6 to 0-5 gives a misconception of the ability of the Limerick team’s scoring capabilities. Drom-Broadford accumulated 6 goals and 80 points in 7 games in the Limerick championship. The two low scoring Munster games also shows how tight defensively that they can be. Best known to Armagh and Rangers supporters would be full back Tommy Stack and forward Michael Reidy who figured prominently in tussles with Armagh in league and championship a few years back.

Current Limerick panelists from the club are Seanie Buckley, Gareth Noonan, Gary Egan, along with Reidy. The team is led from centre half back by veteran Tom McLoughlin. The team captain is a wholehearted player who leads by example, something akin to his Rangers counterpart John Donaldson.

The dedication to football in the West Limerick parish is borne out by long-serving goalkeeper Eamon Scollard, who won a county junior B medal way back in 1992. There are a lot of wise old heads around the Dromcollogher-Broadford set-up but they have young talent in midfielder Jason Stokes, a soccer player with Limerick, forwards Ger Egan, scorer in chief Seanie Buckley and goal poacher Garrett Noonan.

 It may be unchartered water for Dromcollogher-Broadford but the management team of John Brudair, Ned English, Mike Quiad, Mike Fahy, Garry Noonan, Jim Barry, Christine & Maurice McCarthy, Physios  Mary O’Keefe and Bridget Downes will have left no stone unturned in their preparations. Their simple emphasis may be that all the pressure is on Cross as everyone expects them to win and win comfortably so we have nothing to lose

But if anything their opponents Cross are learners and they will be wary of falling into the same pitfall as twelve months ago. Raging hot favorites to retain their All-Ireland title yet overturned by St Vincent’s. The Dromcollogher-Broadford threat will not be underestimated or taken for granted by Rangers management or players. Like the rest of us, Rangers manager Donal Murtagh after the replayed Ulster final win, admitted to knowing little about the newly crowned Munster champions but that will all have changed since then. Cross have prepared with challenge matches against Jordanstown, Longford, Monaghan and Louth u-21’s over the last few weeks. The full panel of players was used during the course of those games with the competition for places as keen as ever.

Rangers have been boosted by the return of Martin Aherne following a serious head injury. Martin was on top of his game prior to injury and was fast becoming a key member of the side. His availability is another welcome headache for manager Donal who has a fully fit panel to select from, leaving him plenty of options. The sextet of defenders in front of goalkeeper Donal Hearty will probably get a vote of confidence. The two Paul’s, McKeown and Kernan, along with Brendan McKeown will make up the full back line. Team Captain John Donaldson and Aaron Kernan will be the flankers alongside centre half back Francie Bellew. Stephen Finnegan has been very good in recent games and is pressing hard for a defensive start

Tony McEntee and David McKenna will man midfield against Pat Donnelly and Jason Stokes with the Cross boys having it all to do as this will be a heavily congested part of the field.

The keenest competition for places takes place in the Rangers forward division. Only John McEntee, Oisin McConville and Mickey McNamee feature regularly on the starting 15.The Kernan brothers Stephen and Tony, John Murtagh, Jamie Clarke, Johnny Hanratty, Cathal Short, Kyle Carragher, Rico Kelly, Francis Hanratty and the returned Martin Aherne will all be seeking the nod from their manager to make the starting 15. Who wants to be a manager?

 Down the years the bonus for Cross has been the ability to churn out a variety of match winners on any given day. The Cross manager has shown that he is not afraid to change things or make the big calls and has got more right than wrong as the records show.  To be blessed with a dozen forwards of the caliber named with proven scoring potential is what sets Crossmaglen Rangers above the rest.

The tight hardworking solid defensive unit that is Dromcollogher-Broadford will face their biggest test yet regardless of what sextet of attackers Donal chooses. Rangers are still hurting from the pain of defeat from 12 months ago and will be hell bent on reaching another final. Despite the heroics already pulled off by Dromcollogher-Broadford they will find out that they have come across a team who has an even harder workrate than their own, but not alone that, have that measure of class that has taken them to the pinnacle, over their Limerick opponents.

Complacency and a very poor first half cost Cross at this stage last year. There will be no slip up this time from Crossmaglen Rangers as they book a fifth St Patrick’s Day out in Dublin in traditional Rangers style, after a win that will not come as easy as some are predicting.

Dromcollogher/ Broadford Team

Eammon Scollard, Mikey Clancy, Tommy Stack, Dee O’Leary, Eoin Barry, Tom McLoughlin (Capt), Neil Conway, Pat Donnelly (0-1), Jason Stokes, Gary Egan, Michael Reidy (0-8), Seanie Buckley (1-1), Garrett Noonan (1-2), Ray Lynch (0-3) and Derry McCarthy.

Used subs for Dromcollogher/ Broadford were:

Kevin Culhane for Mikey Clancy, John O’Kelly for Derry McCarthy and Michael O’Sullivan for Jason Stokes.

Other Subs for Dromcollogher/ Broadford were:

Colin Lordan, Mike Boyce, Declan O’Connor, Jason Ryan, Timmy Stokes, Conor Brosnan and Aidan Butler

Senior Management Team – John Brudair, Ned English, Mike Quiad, Mike Fahy, Garry Noonan, Jim Barry, Christine McCarthy and one and only Maurice McCarthy, Physios are Mary O’Keefe and Bridget Downes

Current Limerick panelists- Seanie Buckley , Micheal Reidy, Gareth Noonan,

Gary Egan

Paths to the semi-final

Crossmaglen Rangers 1-12 Dromintee 0-10

Crossmaglen Rangers 3-15 Clan Na Gael 0-04

Crossmaglen Rangers 1-13 Armagh Harps 1-10

Crossmaglen Rangers 0-13 Pearse Og 0-08

Crossmaglen Rangers 0-13 St Patrick’s (Fermanagh) 0-6

Crossmaglen Rangers 0-11 St Eunan’s, Letterkenny (Donegal) 0-8

Crossmaglen Rangers 1-10 Ballinderry (Derry) 1-10

Crossmaglen Rangers 0-12 Ballinderry (Derry) 1-04

PLAYED 8 FOR 6- 99 (avg 0-14.6) AGN 3-60 (avg 0-8.6)

Dromcollogher-Broadford 0-14 Claughan 2-06

Dromcollogher-Broadford 0-10 Adare 0-07

Dromcollogher-Broadford 4-12 Monalee 1-06

Dromcollogher-Broadford 0-09 Fr. Casey’s 0-03

Dromcollogher-Broadford 0-08 St. Senan’s 0-13

Dromcollogher-Broadford 0-12 St Senan’s 1-06

Dromcollogher-Broadford 2-15 Ballylanders 1-08

Dromcollogher-Broadford 0-07 Nemo Rangers (Cork) 0-06

Dromcollogher-Broadford 0-06 Kilmurray-Ibrickane (Clare) 0-05

PLAYED 9 FOR 6- 93 (avg 0-12.3) AGN 5- 60 (avg 0-8.3)