In a year that has seen Gaelic football teams receive criticism for their style of football employed- or lack of foot-to-ball to be precise – Crossmaglen has emerged as possibly the most complete ‘footballing’ club team ever produced and Gaelic football, as a whole, should be thankful for it.
Derry champions Ballinderry are next up for the Armagh men in the Ulster Club Football Championship semi-final this Sunday and despite ‘Cross being strong favourites, the Shamrocks will relish the underdog tag and fancy their chances of causing an upset at Casement Park. (Throw in 2.30pm.)
Rangers, the eight-time winners of the Ulster championship made a great start to the defence of their title when beating former Ulster and All-Ireland champions, St.Gall’s of Antrim, by 3-9 to 2-5 in the quarter-final.
The score-line was nothing short of flattering for the Antrim men, as ‘Cross looked ominously impressive with the quality of football produced.
Their quick movement of the ball through kick-passing, where others would use hand-passing – even in defence – is productive and hard to defend against. The Kick passes into the forward line are low and accurate and, overall play a more direct, less possession-brand style of football that most other teams employ.
Ballinderry were made to work hard for their win over Dromore in the previous round. In a tight contest the Shamrocks made an early impression with a goal from Michael McIver but while Dromore battled all the way, the Derry champions, for whom Conleth Gilligan scored 0-6, held their nerve to win.
The Shamrocks have never beaten Crossmaglen in the Ulster championship in almost a decade but the last two encounters have been close affairs. The Armagh side edged a low scoring tie 0-5 to 0-3 in 2006 while they needed a replay to overcome the Shamrocks in 2008.
Only a fool would bet against a Crossmaglen victory here. They are oozing confidence, playing some great football and of course they have Jamie Clark.
Ballinderry will rely on experienced men Enda Muldoon, Conleith Gilligan and Kevin McGurkin to play crucial roles for the team but alas, ‘Cross will have too much firepower and physicality for the Derry men to handle.