LIKE most others, I thought Crossmaglen would have too much experience and know-how for Ballybay last weekend, but in this competition you just never know and great credit must go to them for turning in an excellent performance.
I was impressed by their play in that they could mix it up in terms of the short and long game and also seemed pretty solid at the back. With my old college team at Paul Finlay pulling the strings they looked like they might be a match for anyone.
I have to say that I was a little disappointed with Crossmaglen’s approach to the game. We are all fully aware of their tradition with a long kicking game and expansive open football. But, at this level over the last number of years you have to be able to find the right balance of being technically well set up and also being able to play your open expensive brand football.
Too many times during the course of last weekend’s game Cross looked vulnerable at the back with gaps appearing all over the place and sometimes the long kick passes were gobbled up by the extra defender. For me, they were caught in no man’s land.
They have some very young exciting players coming up, but I think they need to look at how they approach games because that may work in Armagh but it won’t work on the Ulster scene anymore.
This weekend the rest of the teams swing into action and I suppose the major talking point this week has been Jerome Johnston (right) opting not to manage against his native Kilcoo who he has three sons play for. It’s a massive call on his behalf and he has come in for some criticism for doing so.
But, for me, I just can’t see any other way out. I understand when you take a job you have to give it 100 per cent commitment because I’m sure he has asked the players to do likewise.
Now, for him to opt out, it may seem a little hypocritical but I’m sure at the start of this process Ulster wasn’t even on their radar. Now that they have completed the task of winning the Monaghan championship the goal posts have changed.
I ran the situation through my head and I just don’t think I myself would be able to stand on the sideline and pit my wits against my club because it just goes against everything I believe in. I think great credit must go to Jerome Johnson for stepping aside because, for me, loyalty within the game is something that is on the decline and for him to feel so passionately about his club I think is refreshing.
To the people giving out about his decision, I’d say to you that perhaps that is why Kilcoo is where they are because they have people and supporters like Jerome Johnson knocking about their club.
To the game itself, I’m not entirely sure that his presence would make a major difference anyway because for me if Kilcoo turn up and play to their capabilities then I don’t think Ballybay will be able to contain them but like last weekend you just never know.
Donegal champions Naomh Conaill get their campaign up and running with a take on Antrim champions Cargin. I think that on paper Glenties should be too strong for the Antrim champions and expect them to run out comfortable winners.
There is something very special about the venue and the Glenties players should enjoy the experience. I have gone on record before by saying that the game we played against Cargin up in Corrigan Park back in 2018 was the best venue that I have ever played with my club. I just loved everything about the location and the atmosphere.
There is no doubt that the game of the weekend is between Tyrone champions Errigal Ciaran and Glen. This game has everything and it should be an absolute cracker with the amount of talent both teams possess.
For me, it will be interesting to see if Glen have learned from the Ulster run last year and whether or not their ambitions lie a lot higher this time around. There has been a lot of talk about this young Errigal Ciaran side for a few years now, so I’m looking forward to seeing how they will cope with the cauldron of Ulster Club football.
I said last week about this competition been the best club competition in Ireland and when you run through the fixtures this weekend it’s easy to see why so let’s enjoy the games while we have them.