Wednesday 21 March 2018

Cross ace Clarke gets Kernan seal of approval

Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

JAMIE Clarke's Man of the Match display in Crossmaglen Rangers' ninth Ulster senior club football triumph on Sunday won't lead to a swelled head.

That's the promise of Aaron Kernan, who also played a big role in 2-11 to 0-10 win over Down champions Burren at the Morgan Athletic Grounds.

Kernan and veteran Oisin McConville were full of praise for Clarke who tormented Burren, particularly in the first half.

Clarke scored twice and had a role in four of his team's first five scores before laying on the pass for McConville to score the first goal after 20 minutes.

Clarke is an ace in the Crossmaglen pack as they look towards an All-Ireland club semi-final meeting with the winners of Munster, which will be either Dr Crokes of Killarney or UCC.

The tall, skilful corner-forward shows similarities in style to Colm Cooper but, as Aaron Kernan pointed out, Clarke can't rest on his laurels.

"That is Jamie. He can be great at whatever he wants to be. He can be a ruthless finisher whenever he wants to be, he can be lazy whenever he wants to be, but he has a swagger about him. He's a boy that people come to watch," Kernan said.

"But the thing about Jamie is that whenever it's put up to him in training, whenever the tough running has to be done, he still does it. No matter how good Jamie is or how skilful he is, he still performs and he still puts in the hard work."


McConville, who scored 1-2 against Burren, is just delighted to be still playing alongside the likes of Clarke. "It's unbelievable for us to be still winning Ulster titles. I think it's 17 years since I won my first one, so to still be here and still be doing it, it's unbelievable," he said.

"We have super young players coming along and they all want to achieve what the boys achieved before them and, in fairness to them, they're probably working harder than we ever have worked as a club before.

"I'm just glad to be part of this team, because to play alongside some of those players, like Jamie, is a bit special. To be playing alongside him, I'm just a bit part, but that's what it's all about. We all do our job."

The statistics of Crossmaglen's success story are staggering. Since 1996, they have won 15 Armagh county championships, nine Ulster titles and won the All-Ireland club championship five times, the last of them in 2010.

Managers John McEntee and Gareth O'Neill have ensured the hunger doesn't die and that's a daunting prospect for opponents in Armagh, Ulster and on the national scene.

Perhaps outsiders might think it comes easy, or that they're playing soft opposition, but Kernan strongly refutes that notion. "People say we've come through a handy Ulster club (championship). But any team beating the three teams that we're after beating (St Gall's, Ballinderry, Burren) will have done a great year's work," he said.

"I'd say we have beaten three massive teams and that's what the really satisfying thing is. That's what makes this one a great Ulster title to win."

Irish Independent

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