One down two to go

November 6, 2012

With the Armagh championship safely tucked away Crossmaglen Rangers face into their second obstacle the Ulster club championship as they bid for the first ever triple treble of club championship victories that stretches from county to All-Ireland glory.

The first Ulster hurdle will be provided by Donegal champions St Eunan’s who were  1-7 to 0-9 winners over Naomh Conaill in Sunday’s final with the match taking place this coming Sunday Nov 11 at the Athletic Grounds at 2-30. These teams have crossed swords before in 2008 at Enniskillen when Cross defeated their Letterkenny opponents 0-11 to 0-8. But there is little resemblance between the teams that did battle that day and the ones that will be in action next Sunday.

Although the Rangers style of play has altered significantly since the teams last met  Paul Hearty,  Paul McKeown, Aaron, Paul, Stephen, Tony Kernan ,  David McKenna, Mickey McNamee,  Oisin McConville all started in that win with  Brendan McKeown , Stephen Finnegan, Johnny Hanratty coming on as substitutes.

With Donegal football on a high following their All-Ireland success St Eunan’s with Brendan Devenney (won five Donegal SFC titles as a player) part of the management team along with Michael McGeehin and Eamonn O’Boyle  they will not fear the huge reputation and credentials of opponents Cross.

The current triple champions as is their norm have been getting better with every outing and are now in their time of year when they transcend from the Armagh championship to a different mode now that they are beginning another Ulster campaign. Armagh was hazardous in that Cross were carrying a lot of injuries and also minus Jamie Clarke until the semi-final stage. The last team to beat Rangers in Armagh Pearse Og were expected to put it up to the champions but once Stephen Kernan was introduced to steady the ship following a 1-1 blistering start to the match the outcome became more inevitable as the game went on as Cross did what they always seem to do, enough to win smugly, rather than convincingly.

The extra weeks delay in this match will have helped rather than hindered the Cross cause as they try to get more of their walking wounded back to full fitness. The Kernan brothers Paul and Stephen, Mickey McNamee will be back in contention for starting places. Newcomer Paul Hughes has slotted in well at corner back with regular football for the two Kyle’s, Carragher and Brennan reaping its rewards.

With veteran Oisin operating alongside the talented Jamie and Aaron Cunningham in the inside forward line Rangers  have the potency and ability to unlock any defence. Eddie Brennan, Michael Martin and Conor Parke will have to be ever alert in the Donegal defence.

County star Rory Kavanagh and John Harnan will be expected to edge the midfield battle with Johnny Hanratty and Cross Captain David McKenna but they will have to be at their best to come out on top against a very combative Rangers duo. Donegal county final goalscoring hero Lee McMonagle combines well with key attacker full forward Ross Wherity a combination that will be noted by the champions. Half back Mark McGowan was the final hero for Eunan’s as it was his converted “45” that won the match for his numerically reduced team for the last 8 minutes following the dismissal of David McGinley.

Cross have too many aces in the pack that can punch holes in the Donegal bubble. Jimmy might be winning matches and winning games but he has not been at it as long as Crossmaglen Rangers a message that will be brought home on Sunday as Cross set up a mouthwatering semi showdown with Errigal Ciaran.