GAA Football

Crossmaglen delighted to return to Armagh Championship decider for clash with Ballymacnab

“If Crossmaglen’s not there, it’s not a county final,” said Kieran Donnelly, part of Donal Murtagh’s Crossmaglen management team
Andy Watters

ARMAGH county finals aren’t the same without Crossmaglen said assistant-manager Kieran Donnelly as the Rangers powered their way back to the decider after a two-year absence.

Mixing power and panache, Cross out-played their south Armagh rivals Cullyhanna and will take on league winners Ballymacnab in the final on October 21.

“If Crossmaglen’s not there, it’s not a county final,” said Donnelly, part of Donal Murtagh’s backroom set-up.

“That’s not being ignorant or anything but it’s just where we want to be. We’re just delighted to get back and we’re looking forward to two weeks’ time.”

After impressive displays last night and in the quarter-final, Cross will go into the showpiece as favourites but Donnelly predicts “a task and-a-half” against Ballymacnab.

“We’ve a big task ahead in two weeks’ time – it’s a task and-a-half,” he said.

“This year, they’ve beaten us twice, they’ve put in a serious effort and they’re a brilliant club. It’s massive for them and they’ll be looking forward to playing us, there’s no doubt about it. It should be a good game.”

The GAA’s recent rule change proposals on handpassing, sideline kicks and kick-outs would have had little or no impact on last night’s game because both Cross and Cullyhanna played a traditional man-on-man kicking game that focused on attack, not defence.

“We work hard,” explained Donnelly.

“We try and do the right things. We’re playing the way we always played and as Donal (Murtagh) said ‘we’ll die playing that way’ and, to be honest, it’s the best way. Sometimes, it doesn’t work and you question yourself and you think: ‘Maybe we should be doing what other teams are doing?’ but it’s not the right road for us. The way forward is to give it a go and try your best. It doesn’t mean you can’t be defensive, you can, but in general it means you give it a go and (if teams play that way) people will start enjoying matches again because that’s gone out of it.

“You imagine having two or three men marking you and blanket defences and all that… Talented players don’t want to play any more and that’s why players walk away. If that was happening with us we would lose those players so we have to try and keep going. We had no success in the last couple of years and that’s a drought in Cross. We hope that if we keep playing our brand of football they (talented young players) will stay and we can move forward.”

Crossmaglen won’t have the injured Tony Kernan available for the final but James Morgan returned to the action last night. The Armagh star came on as a substitute after four minutes and produced a vintage display at the heart of the Cross defence.

“It was a massive bonus,” said Donnelly.

“James has missed the last four or five months but he declared himself ready for action during the week and he came back in and he had an outstanding match. He came on for Aaron Smylie who’s 20 years-of-age so to bring in an experienced player like that is great for us.”

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