Aaron Kernan and Callum Cumiskey expected to be fit for Crossmaglen defence of Armagh Championship against rivals Maghery
AARON Kernan and Callum Cumiskey are expected to be fit for Sunday’s Armagh Senior Football Championship final as Crossmaglen defend their coveted title against Maghery at the Athletic Grounds.
After Ballymacnab’s early exit, the decider brings together the best two sides in the county and the Rangers can complete a three in-a-row if they hold off a Sean McDermott’s outfit that were champions in 2016 and losing finalists a year later.
Familiar foes, the clubs met at the semi-final stage last season when two Oisin O’Neill goals propelled Crossmaglen to a 2-9 to 0-8 victory. Twelve months on and O’Neill and brother Rian have only grown in stature in a Cross side that mixes youthful talent with the experience of Kernan brothers Aaron and Tony.
“Maghery are probably our closest competitors over the last few years and any time we play them it’s going to be tough,” said Tony.
“They are great competitors which is why the tussles between them and us have been so good over the last few years but thankfully we have come out just on the right side of the majority of them.
“We’re pretty familiar with each other at this stage and I obviously know Finnian (Moriarty, the Maghery manager) well from my time with Armagh.
“I have a fair idea of how diligent he is and how much work he put into his preparation as a player and I would imagine it’s exactly the same in terms of management.
“So they’ll have their homework done on us and we’ll have to be ready.”
Kernan was sent off in the first half of the semi-final against unfancied Killeavy and when brother Aaron and Cumiskey went off with injuries the cat was well and truly among the pigeons. It was left to young players like Dara O’Callaghan to see Cross into the final.
“Boys who were minors last year stepped up and kicked big scores and it was their energy that got us across the line in the end,” says Tony.
“I take a huge amount of confidence from the way the young boys are performing.
“They bring a huge amount of energy to the team and the have grown into leaders in the team. There’s not the same level of responsibility on the likes of me, or Aaron. We can enjoy the experience and watch the boys grow into themselves and take a huge amount of pride in how well they are playing and how well they are representing everyone.”
He admits that he doubted, with good reason, that football would be played this year. Crowds have been limited and they will be again on Sunday but the championship has been played and it has been a welcome distraction during uncertain times for everyone.
“Of course we’re looking forward to it because everyone’s just had such a crap year,” said Tony.
“I didn’t think we’d have anything at all this year so what the GAA has done and what Armagh county board has done in terms of running this competition has been brilliant. Everyone’s looking forward to it and it’s playing a huge role in terms of our community and giving people something to look forward to and talk and debate and argue over.
“Without these games there’s not a huge amount of positivity out there, so we’re delighted to have a county final to look forward to. Hopefully we can put in a performance that replicates that enthusiasm.”