Crossmaglen stalwart David McKenna doing it for the kids
CROSSMAGLEN midfielder David McKenna admitted that he thought his Ulster Championship was over when Scotstown’s Rory Beggan had a late chance to win the game, but insisted it was the young players in the squad that drove is side to victory.
McKenna had been forced to watch Rangers’ progress in the Ulster Club Championship from the sideline, having missed wins over Cargin and Kilcoo due to injury, which made Sunday’s win even sweeter.
“I was struggling with a quad injury for a while and missed about four or five weeks of football,” said McKenna.
“Rory Beggan was unlucky with his free-kick at the death and we were glad that the game went to extra-time.
“It was a race against time and I sort of pushed myself too hard to try and be ready for our Ulster semi-final clash against Kilcoo and that didn’t do me any favours and I suffered a bit of a setback for my recovery, so I was glad to make the bench and just be part of the team.
“It has been a long hard slog and when you turn up to training and know that it is November or the start of December, you need to play your best football, you need to be committed.
“I’ll do my best to avoid picking up any more injuries and all I can hope for is a clean bill health between now and February as we have 35 boys pushing for places and I’ve a position to fight for.”
McKenna replaced Johnny Hanratty at half-time and while his trademark fielding won the Armagh side crucial possession in midfield, Scotstown excelled in the second half with Kieran and Darren Hughes forcing Cross onto the back foot and the Monaghan side should have put the game to bed.
And the Rangers midfielder was relieved the game went to extra-time.
“Scotstown really put it up to us and we were lucky enough to come through in end,” he added.
“Our intensity dropped and our game-plan dropped during the second half and, to be fair, Scotstown raised the bar and they really came at us hard, but we weathered the storm and showed our character and class, especially in the second half of extra-time.”
Oisin O’Neill, Aidan Rushe, Conor O’Neill, Stephen Morris and Shane Farrelly won their first county and Ulster title this season. With the exception of Rushe, they were all playing minor football this season and McKenna revealed that he was determined not to let the young players down.
“We got a great influx of minor footballers this year. They won the county title and came into the squad bursting with confidence and while they added quality it also give me and the older boys motivation to try and win an Ulster title for them,” he said.
“The hunger and the motivation is still there but the likes of those minors coming through has given us a real lift and it will drive us on to help them up the steps to lift more silverware.”
With an 11th Ulster title in the bag, Crossmaglen are now targeting a seventh All-Ireland victory. First they must overcome Castlebar on February 13 and McKenna is already focusing on the Mayo champions.
“Castlebar are in our sights, there is no doubt about that. We will enjoy Christmas and we could be lucky enough that John McEntee and Oisin McConville might give us a week off.
“But we will have a few sessions during Christmas, basically so we can look after ourselves and then come the first week of January, we will focus our sights on Castlebar.”