Armagh SFC semi-final
CROSSMAGLEN V MAGHERY
(Saturday, Athletic Grounds, 7pm)
CROSSMAGLEN manager Kieran Donnelly has warned Maghery and the rest of the teams left in the Armagh Championship that their best is yet to come.
Speaking after their comfortable quarter-final win over Silverbridge, Donnelly said that they still had plenty of room to improve.
“No, not yet,” was his reply when asked had we seen the best of Crossmaglen yet.
“More to come.”
The Rangers have long been held up as one of the last bastions of 6-2-6 attacking football, but Donnelly has said that they are now a side prepared to close the game out too when the need arises.
Last year Gaoth Dobhair ruthlessly pulled apart the space in their defence in the Ulster semi-final and it was noticeable that when they earned good leads against Ballymacnab and Silverbridge this year that they had plenty of men back to keep their opponents out.
“You can play free-flowing football but you’ll be caught out,” said the manager, “Our policy was to play real tight (v Silverbridge), very, very tight. Defensively keep the scores down as best we could and I think they did an excellent job.
“Those boys (Crossmaglen defenders) like a bit of the limelight as well. When goals go in they take that to heart.
“You can see that in training and they want to be a better unit. Sometimes we don’t help them because we do play quite attack-minded football and maybe we leave a lot of gaps. Hopefully we’re heading that way in trying to address that.”
Rian O’Neill once again caught the eye against the ‘Bridge and he is no doubt the player Maghery will be wanting to shut down the most.
Easier said than done, of course, but would manager Finnian Moriarty be bold enough to drop Aidan Forker onto him in the man-marking role that served Armagh so well in the summer? “The players are really looking to the challenge of Saturday night,” Moriarty said of the game.
“Whichever team comes through these semi-finals and wins the whole thing will be very deserving winners because the best four teams are left in the championship.”
Maghery finished strongly to defeat Cullyhanna in a bruising quarterfinal and Moriarty said that he is still assessing the fall-out from that contest.
“We have a few niggles, Cullyhanna gave us a great test and we won’t know about the availability of some players until later in the week.
“It’ll be an interesting, physical and tactical battle this weekend.”
Physical is the key word there. It is generally accepted that there is not a lot of love lost between the two teams who have been head and shoulders above the rest in Armagh over the last five years.
Both will have been left disappointed with their haul in the four seasons before this campaign, Cross winning two championships and Maghery winning one. This is a chance to really push on though.
Someone is going to deliver a statement of intent at the Athletic Grounds.