CROSSMAGLEN manager Kieran Donnelly has said that the allure of being perennial champions doesn’t prevent the Rangers from experiencing the same difficulties faced by every other club.
While the side may not be as dominant as they were at their peak, they are still one of the most feared teams in Ulster. Even with that, Donnelly admits that keeping players engaged is a much harder task than it used to be.
Jamie Clarke, for example, has decided not to represent Crossmaglen this season despite being at some pre-season gatherings.
“I’ll tell no lies, it’s not an easy task,” said Donnelly.
“You have four or five away, a few injuries and then you’re looking at a panel that you thought was quite strong and deep. Next thing you realise that you have only 15, 16 or 17 players there.
“It’s probably the same in every club and it’s no different for ourselves.
“I find that it’s getting harder and harder every year to keep players occupied, to keep them happy.
“Social media has an impact on a lot of clubs. Boys are seeing what is happening around the world in America and places.
“Things are going on and they’re saying ‘I want a bit of that’ and you can’t blame them.
“When we were growing up all you wanted to do was play for Cross and we didn’t really think about anything else.
“That’s the other side of the game now and it’s something clubs have to try and handle.”
One man who will not be jetting off anywhere is team captain Aaron Kernan who is currently sidelined with a broken arm.
The 2005 Young Player of the Year suffered the injury in their derby victory over Silverbridge, and Donnelly said that his reaction to the blow has been as professional as you’d expect.
“He’s still a couple of weeks away,” Donnelly said of the half-back.
“He’s like a young fella who has only started his career and he’s dying to get back.
“He’s a serious example to anyone. He’s an exceptional player.”
Crossmaglen are back in action tomorrow night as they host Armagh Harps.
They have had a mixed start to the season, losing two and drawing two of their first eight games.
Donnelly, who has dipped extensively into his squad thus far, is just happy that they look in a great position to secure a top-four spot, and the favourable championship seeding that would accompany it.
“You’re looking at it now and you’re just hoping to pick up the points to get you in the top four, that’s the goal,” he said.
“In saying that, we finished in the top four last year and ended up playing Armagh Harps in the championship so sometimes it’s not always the best.
“We are trying to get in there though to avoid playing some of the other teams in the group.
“Everyone is upside, down at the moment with the county players away, injuries, players away on holidays.
“You’re just trying to keep things together at the moment.”
One thing that does excite Donnelly is seeing players getting their chance when not expected to, especially if they manage to take it.
Paul Hughes famously went from a reserve club player to an inter-county starter in a short timeframe and the manager said that there is always a couple of players that can surprise everyone.
“Maybe someone will come in and play well, maybe you’ll get the odd gem. That’s brilliant.
“It happened us last year, we got a few boys through the league and then they couldn’t be dropped.
“You mightn’t have thought of them for championship but then they did enough in the league to show that you couldn’t leave them out.”