Over three years have been lost since Tony McEntee last donned Crossmaglen’s famous black and amber stripes but, with his boyish features and chiselled physique still in evidence, the club’s current manager can still pass for one of his players.
Never more so than on Saturday afternoon when he slung a kitbag over his shoulders, slipped a hoodie over his head and joined the procession of disconsolate faces who filed out of the changing-room and past the unsuspecting media. He was almost out the gap before one scribe spotted him but the request for a minute of his time was dismissed with an apologetic wave of the hand, the pain of his first ever championships defeat in a term spanning three years all too raw.
It was only when Oisín McConville emerged some minutes later that a window was opened into the Crossmaglen soul after their hopes of becoming the first club to claim three successive All-Irelands titles had been foiled at the second last.
“Even though we’re a very successful club we’ve been beaten down the years plenty times and we’ve had to recover from it,” said the former All Star forward who picked up an injury in training last Thursday and lasted just 22 minutes.
“Even though [it] seems like the end of an era and all that, we’ve been here before.
“It’s not the end of anything. This club will always go on. It doesn’t matter what the faces are, what one to 15 is or who’s over us. The club will always go on.”
It would be foolish to doubt him.
Epitaphs were prepared eight years ago when they lost to Portlaoise, in 2008 when St Vincent’s repeated the dose and again a year later when they fell to Kilmacud Crokes on Paddy’s Day and to Pearse Óg in the county championships later that year.
McConville offered a clue to the reasons why they have always managed to pick themselves up off the floor by expressing his hunger for the forthcoming league campaign in Armagh but it remains to be seen if he will be involved again himself.
“I don’t really know whether I’m going to come back or not. I have a lot of thinking to do.
“It’s not just my decision any more. I have family at home and I’ve given alot of years to it and, don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed every single minute of it.
“When I do go there’s plenty of young fellas there to come along and for me that’s the heartening thing.
“There’s another generation coming and it’s irrelevant whether I quit this year or whether it be next year or whatever.”
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