Football

If Jim McConville's happy, Crossmaglen must be doing something right

“I’m happy, this is my fourth year with this team and we lost two finals in the first two years but we’ve come back strong," says Jim McConville
“I’m happy, this is my fourth year with this team and we lost two finals in the first two years but we’ve come back strong," says Jim McConville “I’m happy, this is my fourth year with this team and we lost two finals in the first two years but we’ve come back strong," says Jim McConville

IF there was a test for dedication to a GAA club, you’d expect Jim McConville to score very high in it.

A brilliant forward in his playing days Jim, older brother of Oisin, father of current star Cian, uncle of the O'Neills, captained Crossmaglen Rangers to their first ever All-Ireland title in 1997 and, 26 years later, he remains synonymous with the club. McConville was assistant-manager with Stephen Kernan for three seasons and stayed on after Anthony Cunninghan, another Cross All-Ireland-winning skipper, took over for this campaign.

Rangers won their 47th county title last Sunday and their focus this weekend will be on the Tyrone championship final between Errigal Ciaran and Trillick because they take on the winners in the Ulster quarter-finals.   

After being dumped out of Ulster in the preliminary round by Monaghan’s Ballybay last year, Cross are determined to give a better account of themselves this season.

“We were disappointed with ourselves last year,” said McConville.

“Against Ballybay we felt we let a lot of people down and we didn’t set up correctly but we have a free shot at it again in Omagh so we’ll see where that takes us but it’ll take a good team to beat us now.

“There’s a lot of quality and experience in our team and what marks us out from most teams is our scoring power. People can set up any way they want against us but then they have to score at the other end as well.”

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A point behind at half-time, Cross eased through the gears in the second half against Clan na Gael and hit 2-10 to 0-3 to coast to the county title.

“It probably was the best we’ve played this year,” said McConville.

“In the first half we were disappointed with a lot of the things… We were disappointed with the (Clans) goal but these things happen and it’s how you deal with it. We came back straight after the goal and scored four points in-a-row which showed great character in the team. That’s 47 championships now, Aaron Kernan got his 18th so it’s fantastic.

“We knew it was going to be a tight first half but we came out in the second half and we blew them away. That was the plan. We knew our fitness, our strength and our scoring power would get us through in the second half.”

Crossmaglen won their 47th Armagh title last Sunday
Crossmaglen won their 47th Armagh title last Sunday Crossmaglen won their 47th Armagh title last Sunday

Cross will need better to regain the Ulster title that has eluded them since the last of their 11 successes came in 2015. McConville believes there is more to come the South Armagh unit.

“I’m happy,” he said.

“This is my fourth year with this team and we lost two finals in the first two years but we’ve come back strong and it’s onwards and upwards now. We’ve a good young squad apart from a couple of boys and we have loads to come in so we’ll be around for a while.

“We had Fitzy there (Ronan Fitzpatrick) who came in, he’s 19, Aaron O’Neill, 18, and they did a great job. We’ve a job to pick the team and somebody like Fitzy is the boy who can come on and finish it off when it opens up.

“He scored 1-1 when he came on and it’s very important to have boys on the bench too – you can’t be all gung-ho. In the modern game you have to set out your stall and then hit them near the end.”