We hope victory gives our community a lift... Crossmaglen veteran Aaron Kernan after Rangers reach Armagh championship final

Ronan Fitzpatrick celebrates his goal against Maghery at the Athletic Grounds. Picture: John Merry
Ronan Fitzpatrick celebrates his goal against Maghery at the Athletic Grounds. Picture: John Merry

OFF the field, the Crossmaglen Rangers club has endured a collective trauma over the past four years.

The horrors of the abuses carried out by former treasurer Thomas McKenna (who pleaded guilty to a catalogue of offences committed over a 30-year period late last month) have cast a dark shadow over the proud south Armagh club.

On the field, Crossmaglen haven’t won a county title since 2019 but they are back in the final again and stalwart Aaron Kernan said he hoped last Friday night’s brilliant performance against Maghery at the semi-final stage would give “a huge lift” to a club and his community in need of some good news.

“It’s been a long time since we were county champions,” said Kernan, one of the scorers in a 3-15 to 1-6 win.

“All we can do as players is prepare well for the final but in terms of our own and club and our community I think we have given them a huge lift in what we’ve done here because it has been a tough 10 days or so locally

“I think we’ve given a lot of people pride and honour in showing how good we are as a club and a community. That’s all we want to do as players.”

Young men in the famous black and amber jersey like Ronan Fitzpatrick, Thomas Og Duffy, Dara O’Callaghan, Caolan Finnegan and Caolan Dillon came of age under the lights in Armagh as Cross blew away a side that had enjoyed the upperhand on them over the past half-dozen years.

“There is nowhere harsher than Crossmaglen when you’re not winning and that probably affects them (youngsters coming into the team),” said Kernan.

“It was grand for me coming into a winning team - I never had that extra bit of pressure within my own town. It’s not easy for those boys to make the step up, those boys are playing championship football and (when I was their age) I couldn’t even get on as a sub.

“They’re getting thrown into senior football now. I was on the senior panel for two years and I never even got on as a sub in the championship but those boys are starting games.

“Our young players are finding their feet but I know that they have the quality to be super footballers from our club in years to come and the potential to be county footballers.

“I’m just delighted that they’re performing the way they can. The energy they bring and the enthusiasm and the ability… It’s huge for us and I’m here to try and help them along but, to be honest, the way they went about it, they didn’t need any help.”

After playing in fits and starts and requiring grandstand finishes to get over the line in previous rounds against Silverbridge and Dromintee, Cross clicked into gear from the throw-in against Maghery. An unfortunate own goal – the first act of a calamitous weekend for goalkeepers in Armagh – got them off to a dream start and they capped off a brilliant performance with two superb team goals (finished by Fitzpatrick and Cian McConville) late in the game.

“We had a point to prove to ourselves,” said Kernan.

“We’re disappointed we haven’t won the championship this past two years, we’re disappointed with our last two performances and that’s within our own group.

“Realistically speaking, we’ve no-one to answer to but ourselves and the best place to do it is when you cross the white line. We’ve done it for a semi-final but we’re not county champions, there’s no cup coming home with us tonight and we’re long enough in the tooth to know that we don’t lose the run of ourselves now.

“But in terms of confidence that we can take in terms of what we showed and what we’ve been trying to work on… Yes, it’s definitely been very pleasing.”