Rangers to rain on St Pat's Parade
Tuesday, 15 October 2013
THE T-MET Armagh Senior Club Championship should be an explosive encounter with St Pat's Cullyhanna, the only team in the county without an inferiority complex to Sunday's opponents Crossmaglen.
Rangers are aiming for their fourth county title in a row and 17th in 18 years, while Cullyhanna are hoping they will clinch silverware in their first ever Senior Final appearance.
There is no doubt the Lower Creggan derby will be a physical encounter but Cross manager Joe Kernan, who got the Championship ball rolling back in 1996, insists he will continue the expansive free-flowing football which he inherited from Tony McEntee and Gareth O'Neill.
“This last few years we have played lovely, open, attractive attacking football and that's what we will be trying to do on Sunday, the way that Cross can, and we hope the game is open and attractive and may the best team win on the day."
Kernan will, of course, be without Jamie Clarke, who is in America, the injured James Morgan and Paul Kernan. And for the first time in over a decade Rangers go into the Final without the retired Oisin McConville.
But Big Joe is happy with the players that have come into the squad and stepped up to the plate this season.
“Because of injuries and men not here, players have been given opportunities to grab a place on the team. We had a sticky enough league where we were minus a lot of players. But we kept on playing and we finished third in the league, which we were happy enough with. But the truth always comes out in the Championship and, so far - so good," he said.
“All the players that have come in have done well. We have an U21 squad that reached the semi-finals and a lot of those boys on the Senior panel. You just don't win matches with 15 players, we have 34 players working very hard."
Indeed players such as Garbhan Carragher and Calumn Cumiskey have established first team roles.
Carragher is an old-fashioned, tough-tackling, no-nonsense defender. He is a player who has featured in the early stages of previous recent Armagh Club Championship campaigns only to be replaced. Under Joe Kernan he has flourished, having been given plenty of game-time. He has many of the attributes of a great Cross and Armagh former player Francie Bellew and has the potential to follow in his footsteps.
Cumiskey, the young corner forward, has had big shoes to fill with the legendary Oisin McConville and magical Jamie Clarke no longer part of the attacking artillery. Kyle Carragher has stepped up to the mark, but Cumiskey is another who has broke into the first team under the management of Kernan and he has a bright future.
Neither Kernan, nor his opposite number Cullyhanna manager Jody Gormley, are overly worried about the derby factor.
“It is a local derby and that is just the way it is going to be. Local derbies are different than anything else but for us it is just another game and another final, which is where we want to be," said Kernan.
“In any county you are going to have the neighbouring rivalry. When boys grow up in close proximity to each other there is a natural rivalry and Cullyhanna and Cross are no different. While I am sure that will have some impact on the game, it will depend on who can perform on the day," said Gormley.
But the Cullyhanna boss is not getting sentimental about the sense of occasion and is determined that his team wins.
“To be honest getting to the Final is fine but it will be insignificant if we don't put in a performance and get a result. That is ultimately what it is about," he said.
“Getting to the Final is only another step along the way but it is about getting a performance and a result on Sunday. Anything less than that is not good enough."
Robbie Tasker has been playing his best football since winning a Minor title with Armagh in 2009, but Gormley refuses to take credit for Tasker's performances this season.
“Tasker has always been a natural talent. It was my job to bring him into the fold. His instinct for the game is way ahead of most. Robbie trains very hard. He is dedicated. He's blessed with a lot of natural ability but works hard at his game too.
“You can only create the environment and hope that players will want to play. But ultimately it is up to the player. He has to decide if he wants to do something. Early on in the year Robbie decided he wanted to play for Cullyhanna and that is what he has done."
Tasker has played a pivotal role in each of the three victories so far. Gormley plays Robbie at centre-half forward where he acts as a playmaker, spraying difficult long-range passes and, as he proved against Whitecross and Ballymacnab, he is deadly accurate in front of goal. A natural talent that has been given the freedom to express himself, he is a joy to watch.
Gormley insists that Armagh and Cullyhanna captain Ciaran McKeever won't line out for Ireland in Saturday night's International Rules first test in Breffni Park, Cavan, and has slammed the timing of the competition.
“Ciaran will be playing for the club and it is great honour for him. He won't be playing in the International Rules the night before but I imagine he will play in the second Test. It is a ridiculous situation for players to be put in. You would imagine our national sport would come before a compromise sport," Gormley said.
It is sure to be an epic battle, with Crossmaglen's three Kernan brothers Tony, Aaron and Stephen playing key roles for Rangers. Martin Aherne and Kyle Carragher will be expected to carry much of the threat as well as track back.
Cullyhanna's Barry McConville, Tasker and McKeever will need to be on their game if St Pat's are to have a chance of pulling off a shock. But Rangers have too much quality - if they play to their ability it will be more than enough to get over the line.
Throw in at the Athletic Grounds, on Sunday (October 20) is 5.30pm
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