Crossmaglen Rangers will bounce back after shock defeat: Joe Kernan
JOE KERNAN says Crossmaglen Rangers won’t be “closing down” any time soon just because they lost a county championship match - and insisted the famous south Armagh club will bounce back stronger than ever.
The fact the six-time All-Ireland winners' defeat made national headlines on Monday morning illustrated just how successful the club has been over the last two decades. Remarkably, last Sunday's loss to St Patrick's, Cullyhanna was only their second defeat in the Armagh senior football championship in 21 years of competition. Their last county championship defeat was in 2009 against Pearse Óg - also at the semi-final stages - but they bounced back then to win back-to-back All-Ireland crowns in 2010/11 and 2011/12.
Former Armagh county ace Malachy Mackin fisted a goal in the closing stages to give Cullyhanna a historic one-point victory at the Athletic Grounds last Sunday night. They advance to this year’s county decider to face Maghery on October 16.
Kernan, who guided ‘Cross to three All-Ireland titles and is now club chairman, insisted Gareth O’Neill’s men would be back: “If somebody told us 20-years-ago that we’d lose two Armagh championship matches in 20 years, we would have laughed at them,” he said.
“That’s exactly where we are. Naturally, we thought we could win the game and we had it won with a minute to go. But it just shows you the standards we’ve set for years. Nothing lasts forever. It does hurt. We’ll regroup, we’ll grit our teeth and go on. We’ve great young players coming through and we have great structures at the club, but Crossmaglen isn’t going to close down because we’ve lost a championship match.”
Kernan paid tribute to the Crossmaglen players for how they handled themselves in the immediate aftermath of last Sunday night’s gut-wrenching loss to their south Armagh neighbours: “For any neutral that watched the game, it was end-to-end stuff," he added.
"As chairman, I’m even more proud of our players because, when the game was over, they all went round and shook everybody’s hand. We know how to win and we know to do the right thing when we lose. We’ll bite the bullet, we’ll take our medicine and get on with life. But don’t write Cross off.”
Over the years, Crossmaglen Rangers turned winning games in the closing stages into an art-form. ‘Cross had fashioned a 0-12 to 0-8 lead at half-time during last Sunday’s semi-final and led by two points right up until Mackin’s divine intervention for Cullyhanna with just 30 seconds left on the clock.
“These things happen in sport all of the time. There’s many a time we did it [to other teams]. I remember we did the same to Bellaghy to win our first Ulster title in ‘96. So you have to take it on the chin,” Kernan said.
He added: “I remember back in ’97, when Errigal Ciarán beat us and we were hurting that day in an Ulster semi-final and we came back and won two All-Irelands after that. In 2009, when we lost to Pearse Ógs, people said that was it - and we bounced back again.
“We knew this run wouldn’t last forever. But we’re very proud of the players - they left everything on the field."
It wasn't all doom and gloom, as Kernan noted: "It was half a good day because our minors won three in-a-row.”