Insatiable Cross set sights on more glory
All-Ireland Club SFC final replay
TIME and titles were the talking points after Crossmaglen Rangers carved out a well-deserved sixth crown in Cavan on Saturday night.
Crossmaglen joint-manager Tony McEntee estimated that his side have gone 1,000 days unbeaten in championship football. But what about Oisin McConville and goalkeeper Paul Hearty?
They set a record as being the first players to win six All-Ireland club medals -- 5,494 days had passed since their first in 1997 and number six on Saturday.
No wonder McConville received a standing ovation when he left the field after 58 minutes with 0-6 to his credit.
Was it sentiment on the part of managers McEntee and Gareth O'Neill? And will this be the last time McConville appears at this level?
"I don't think Gareth and Tony do sentiment," said McConville. "But it was a great reception coming off. I didn't go back last year until August, so I'll see how I feel in August."
McConville and skipper Stephen Kernan spoke about the quality of the management and the club ethos which makes Cross such a powerful entity.
"Gareth and Tony came in and turned this team around," said McConville. "We were a team on the wane, we could have probably accepted that, 'oh we've done well, let's sit back and enjoy what we've done', but in this club you're not allowed to do that. People ask, 'what's the secret?'. It's simple. It's hard work. People want you to be successful and that is infectious.
"Take myself and Hearty out of it and it's a young team. There's still plenty of big days left in this team."
It's a chilling thought for clubs throughout the land that the younger generation of Cross players are eating up All-Ireland medals and have an appetite for more.
Take 22-year-old Francis Hanratty for example, who hadn't been given a starting place since the Ulster final.
Within five minutes of the game starting he had his first goal in the bag; he got the second in the 18th minute and at that stage, leading by 2-3 to 0-3, the 'Rangers Mean Machine' was in full flow. The youngster took the Man of the Match award as his team extended their 2-8 to 0-4 half-time lead to a 15-point winning margin.
Garrycastle tried gamely to compete. They brought the best level of focus and intensity they could, even to the pre-match rituals. A brief flurry of pushes and shaping-up marred the arrival of Garrycastle on to the pitch, caused by Crossmaglen, for some reason, not getting their photo taken immediately as they ran out.
The Cross players were swarming back to get the photo taken, just as Garrycastle were arriving. The Armagh men hogged the bench with a bit of shoving and snarling.
"We went to get a photograph taken and they wanted to get theirs taken -- you wouldn't think Gaelic footballers were so vain," quipped McConville.
Soon afterwards, as the pre-match parade broke up, Aaron Kernan was flattened by a heavy shoulder from a Garrycastle player before the game had even started.
That set the tone for an untidy opening 15 minutes with stuff going on off the ball and a number of mini-confrontations. Referee Marty Duffy ended up booking 14 players, seven on each side, but managed to avoid sending anyone off.
Some of the scoring by Crossmaglen was of the highest quality, not least the two Hanratty goals. In each case the ball was moved swiftly downfield, with Jamie Clarke opening the way for the first goal and Aaron Kernan's determined 40-metre run setting up the second.
McConville was in sublime form, with four points from play and two from frees. Crossmaglen's spread of scorers underlined the team ethic, with nine players getting on the score sheet, including their six starting forwards.
James Morgan had been 'Dessied' in the drawn game by the fine talents of Dessie Dolan, but texted manager McEntee afterwards and asked, "can I mark that man next time?".
Morgan didn't totally hold Dolan, who scored 0-3, one from a free, in the first half. Dessie also set up Garrycastle's 32nd-minute goal for brother Gary Dolan, but Morgan, helped by his team's dominance, did his job effectively in the second half.
Garrycastle had no complaints. They made history by becoming the first Westmeath club to win a Leinster title and to reach an All-Ireland final.
Manager Anthony Cunningham commented: "What a fantastic year we have had. Garrycastle can feel so proud of themselves. The consolation would be that we ran Crossmaglen so close the last day and hats off to them, today the best team won."
Scorers -- Crossmaglen Rangers: O McConville 0-6 (2f), F Hanratty 2-1, A Kernan (2f), S Kernan 0-3 each, A Cunningham 0-2, J Clarke, T Kernan, J Hanratty, K Carragher, 0-1 each.
Garrycastle: G Dolan 1-0, D Dolan (1f), C Cosgrove (3f) 0-3 each; D O'Shaughnessy 0-1f.
Crossmaglen Rangers -- P Hearty; J Morgan, P Kernan, P McKeown; A Kernan, D O'Callaghan, S Finnegan; J Hanratty, D McKenna; T Kernan, S Kernan, A Cunningham; J Clarke, F Hanratty, O McConville. Subs: M McNamee for F Hanratty (42), M Ahearn for T Kernan (42), K Carragher for Cunningham (50), G Carragher for P Kernan (52), K Brennan for McConville (58).
Garrycastle -- C Mullin; M McCallon, J Gaffey, T McHugh; K Henson, D Harte, E Mulvihill; S O'Donoghue, D O'Shaughnessy; P Dillon, D Dolan, J Dolan; G Dolan, P Mulvihill, J Duignan.
Subs: A Fox for McHugh (24), A Browne for Duignan (26), C Cosgrove for Henson (h-t), J O'Shaughnessy for E Mulvihill (50).
Ref -- Marty Duffy (Sligo).