McEntee: Clarke in for the long haul

Crossmaglen Rangers manager Tony McEntee has suggested Jamie Clarke may yet remain in Ireland this summer and, thus, be available for Armagh’s 2013 championship campaign.

It was reported the star forward was preparing to take time out to travel and the corner-forward demonstrated his worth to the club again yesterday by claiming a goal and a point within three minutes which turned yesterday’s contest.

“As long as it’s Crossmaglen we’ll have Jamie,” said McEntee.

“I honestly don’t know if Jamie’s thoroughly made up his mind yet if he’s going to America. I know it’s been reported but a lot of things can change between now and March or April but, as long as we’re in the campaign, Jamie’s with us.”

The nine-time Ulster champions will now be looking to edge into double figures in two weeks time when they take on Kilcoo of Down in the decider and it was confirmed yesterday that the sides will toss a coin for ‘home’ advantage.

A similar arrangement was put in place 12 months ago when the South Armagh side won the right to stage the final against Burren, Kilcoo’s predecessors as county champions, at the Athletic Grounds in Armagh.

Kilcoo will be the eighth different Ulster final opponent for all-conquering Cross, who have never been bettered on the big day, and the favourites will approach the tie feeling their best football is yet to come this season.

“I feel we’re progressing and that there’s a wee bit more in the tank,” said captain and midfielder David McKenna, “but it’s very hard to get that perfect performance. We’re getting that bit closer and that’s what we want.”

The club has enjoyed many incredible campaigns since 1996 but this latest could yet stand out as the pinnacle. Only Nemo Rangers (with 15) have more provincial titles and, of course, no-one has ever won three club All-Irelands on the trot.

There is much to aim for – and just as much to lose.

“Every time that you put on a Crossmaglen jersey there’s pressure,” said McKenna, “pressure to win, because a winning mentality surrounds the club.

“But there’s no extra pressure. We’re always just looking for that performance to get us over the line and play well and if we play well I don’t think there’s too many teams who can stop us.”

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