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Crossmaglen v Dr Crokes preview

Crossmaglen Rangers players, from left, James Clarke, Aaron Cunningham, Paul Hearty, James Morgan and Oisin McConville

All-Ireland Club SFC semi-final
Crossmaglen v Dr Crokes
Saturday, Portlaoise, 2pm

OK, FORGET about the seating arrangements, all thoughts of Dromid Pearse’s and Derrytresk, swinging handbags, ludicrous fines and Joe Duffy on the wireless. That game, and the accompanying cacophony of rage and counter-rage, has no relevance to this game.

This is Croke’s against Cross. Black and amber against black and amber, and it has the potential to be the best spectacle of club football anyone could ever hope for.

The Armagh club are widely regarded as probably the best club side to ever play the game as they home in on Nemo Rangers record haul of Andy Merrigan Cups, but they face a Croke’s strike-force headed up by one of the greats of the game in Colm Cooper.

For those of us permanently in confusion about the amount of football they play in the Kingdom, it came as a surprise to learn that the Dr Croke’s team were in action a fortnight ago against neighbours Legion in the semi-final of the Aquila Club O’Donoghue Cup.

They got through without much hassle on a score-line of 1-14 to 0-5, that man Cooper decorating the contest with a goal taken with the usual aplomb.

And it’s that kind of activity going on down in Kerry that has us slightly worried for Cross here. In conversation this week, John McEntee was concerned about the length of the lay-off for Cross.

Perhaps it will not make much of a difference, that the Rangers management have guarded against this sort of thing and we never should have doubted them, but in comparing the perils of an All-Ireland final and the game that comes before it, this is what John had to say, “The semi-final’s always a harder match, for those reasons.

“In a final, you are going to have a match relatively close to it and a couple of challenge matches to hone your skills. But with two months off and a few challenge matches against a few county sides, you just don’t know where you stand.”

If you would like to read the full story, buy the current issue of Gaelic Life – published February 16 – online or in your local newsagent


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