GAA Football

No quarter given as Mullaghbawn cross swords with defending Armagh champions Rangers

Vastly-experienced Mullaghbawn manager Peter McDonnell takes on Crossmaglen tomorrow. Pic Seamus Loughran.
Andy Watters

Cormac Leonard Armagh Senior Football Championship

AFTER their resounding 4-13 to 0-13 thumping of Annaghmore secured a first senior championship football in a dozen years, Mullaghbawn meet south Armagh neighbours Crossmaglen Rangers tomorrow in the second of this year’s quarter-finals.

The Rangers go into the game on the back of an equally impressive 3-10 to 1-8 win over Silverbridge which saw them underpin their perennial rating as favourites to retain the Gerry Fagan Cup they won after a remarkable second half fightback in the final against Ballymacnab last year.

It’s 25 years since Mullaghbawn’s last senior title and that success was the springboard for the club’s Ulster Championship win later that year. The 1995 title-run included a victory over Cross but since then the Rangers have held sway and racked up a remarkable 21 county titles, 11 Ulster titles and six All-Ireland crowns.

Cross manager Stephen Kernan was part of many of those successes and, although his young side doesn’t include the household names of the Rangers teams of yore, they are determined to make their own history in the famous black and amber jersey.

The same is true of Mullaghbawn of course and manager Peter McDonnell, the architect of that extraordinary campaign a quarter-of-a-century ago, is back at the helm and bringing through a young side that has duelled with Cross regularly on the way up to senior level.

“Once we won last week, we’re in bonus territory,” said McDonnell disarmingly but that does not mean his Cuchulainn’s team will be turning up tomorrow and going through the motions.

As Armagh U20 manager, McDonnell is familiar with a dozen of the current Crossmaglen panel and while he regards the draw as “a challenge that maybe we didn’t need just now” his side has tasted success against tomorrow’s opponents at underage level.

“The two teams have grown up together,” said the Ulster-winning former Armagh senior manager.

“The strength of the Cross team would be their under-24s, 12 of whom I’ve had with Armagh. We know each other well, they’ve gone to school together and played on the same school teams together and this is a good step to see where we’re at and what we have to do to compete at this level.

“But we’re certainly not afraid of it. The Cross boys who live over the road from us are the same lads they were a month ago and the same lads they’ll be a month from now and they’re not going to pull on a Superman outfit on Sunday.

“It’s maybe asking a bit too much too soon but we’re looking forward to it.”

Mullaghbawn will be without Eddie English, Gerard Doherty and Armagh senior panellist Declan Loye for tomorrow’s clash while Martin Magill is rated doubtful.

“We’re going there to be competitive,” said McDonnell.

“But Crossmaglen are going very well. They dismissed Silverbridge easily and Silverbridge beat us by 10 points a few weeks ago so we have to be realistic in our expectations. But if the occasion and the opposition doesn’t take away our performance I’ll be happy with that.”

Elsewhere in the senior championship quarter-finals, Madden Raparees take on Pearse Og at the Athletic Grounds this evening (7pm). Mickey Grimley’s Madden are fresh from taking the notable scalp of Ballymacnab Round Towers, finalists in the previous two seasons, and after that win, Madden will be full of confidence against a Pearse Og side that struggled to find fluency against Cullyhanna last Sunday evening.

In the end, the Ogs got over the line by two points but manager Shane McConville was not impressed by what he’d seen from his men. Looking on the bright side, he said there was “a lot more in the tank” and he knows it will have to come out this evening.

McConville’s men have pace on the wings and a direct option to targetman full-forward Anto Duffy. Their purple patches either side of half-time showed a glimpse of what they are capable of and they will have worked hard this week to prepare for the challenge of Madden.

Tomorrow Armagh Harps and Killeavy do battle at the Athletic Grounds (throw-in 5.30pm) and on Monday, Maghery take on Lurgan’s Clann Eireann (7.30pm).

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GAA Football