Crossmaglen are the best – fact
IT MUST be a bit of a hassle for Gerard Rushe, the secretary of Crossmaglen Rangers having to ring the printers and order new headed club note paper every year.
Their letterhead has the roll of honour at the top and will have to be thrown out again this week to take into consideration the three new titles won this year.
Not a bad phone call to have to make.
It’s a rare event that you can tell for sure who is going to win a match before the ball is even thrown in, but this is exactly how any discerning neutral would have felt in Breffini Park last Saturday evening about 4.55pm.
It all started with Tony Mac’s pre match interview. Tony is about as direct a man as you could find.
He doesn’t do spin, policy talk or plamás – for him it’s the facts, plain and simple. He started by explaining that their viewing of the DVD of the drawn match had revealed that they had made mistakes and that they had worked on this in the intervening fortnight.
He acknowledged that Mulvihill and Dolan were the two unmanageable threats from the last day, so when asked how he would deal with them this time round, his answer was simple. Man-mark. Cross looked chirpy and sharp in their warm up while Garrycastle seemed flat and slow, but this was only the start of it.
Cross had come out first and went to do a bit of kicking in and out before they went for the photo. Meanwhile Garrycastle came out, saw the bench and headed for it. They were swiftly disabused from that notion and sent on their way.
After the parade, Dolan gave Aaron a fair wee skite on the way past and anyone who has watched Cross over the past ten or so years would have known straightaway that this was the final nail in the Garrycastle coffin.
There are very few ways to beat Crossmaglen. Even fewer teams know these ways, but we all know how not to beat them and that is by trying the physical stuff. St Gall’s found this out last year as did Kilmacud in the All-Ireland semi final.
Garrycastle hadn’t yet picked up that lesson by five on Saturday. In the seventh minute O’Shaughnessy gave David McKenna a sort of forearm smash cum shoulder cum frontal dunt; the sort of discretion which makes our games gloriously impossible to referee because sanction for same could range from straight red to nothing, but the referee gave a free.
The Cross response was devastating. O’Callaghan to Jamie to Franny to net. In that one move, the game was over. Another clinical move followed where the ball came in to Jamie, he turned left before going right and over the bar. The space he had was mystifying for an opposition who knew where the Cross threat was coming from.
And then the second goal; Aaron to Franny in a move where the full forward hadn’t to break his stride to catch and dispatch to the goal once again. Job done. Andy Merrigan safe and another title for the letterhead.
And in a further act of pure common sense, at the half time whistle, instead of sending them into the changing room cheek by jowl with an opposition who had decided to play the hard man, Tony Mac gave Garrycastle the tunnel all to themselves and gathered his lads into a huddle for a minute before walking them in to a standing ovation from the fans in the stand.
All simple stuff, but the results were spectacular. By the end of the half, the Cross full forward line had amassed 2-5, while the much heralded Garrycastle front three had scored 0-0. This was achieved by taking the unconventional step of putting Aaron Kernan back to mark Paddy Mulvihill, James Morgan out to mark Dessie Dolan and the rest of the defence working hard to cover for Aaron during his raids into the forward line.
No systems, nor ten men behind the ball, nor short kick-outs, nor fouling the man coming out of defence, or cynical stuff, just hard work, every man doing his job and getting the right man onto the end of the move.
Both teams knew that they had relied too much on two men in the drawn match for scores. At half time also, Cross had six scorers while Garrycastle had one. Replays are all about lessons learned.
Cross might just be about to save the game of Gaelic football with the way they play. If only county teams would have the confidence to approach the game in the simple way they do.
Their style of play sees every man having a job to do, using the kick pass, long range points, man to man marking strategy and getting the most out of the talents of each player. It is too simplistic to say that they have an outstanding team because only about four of them will make the county team.
The crucial aspect is their sense of loyalty to each other and their sheer obedience to what being from Crossmaglen means to them. They have a tradition and are programmed into it. Each man does his job.
In the Armagh final when they scored 2-22, Jamie Clarke emerged scoreless, but had set up almost everything. They are a young team and now want to get another All-Ireland and go on to finally beat Nemo’s tally of seven. God help us in Armagh!
St Paul’s Bessbrook took the Colleges All-Ireland in the opening in a display which did the school and community proud. It was also great to see the number of Crossmaglen folk who made the trip to Breffni early to support us. All in all it was a very emotional day for the school and the celebrations have been going on all week.
We’re in MacRory next year which is a massive step for our school, but if the boys show the same determination and will to win as they did on Saturday, anything can happen.