Brave Brigid’s set to fall at final hurdle

WE should get a game today. The portents are good. These generations of Crossmaglen and St Brigid’s footballers subscribe to an attractive brand of play and on a wide open space like Croke Park with the forecast not too inclement there are reasons to be cheerful.

The clubs have been scoring too, averaging between a total of 15 and 18 points a game, and it wouldn’t be in the new Crossmaglen style to say no to a shoot-out.

The obvious threats to each other would be the inside forwards of Jamie Clarke and Oisín McConville and Frankie Dolan and Senan Kilbride.

Not so for Crossmaglen. Karol Mannion in midfield is the real danger man for them. Pat Duggan gave Cross a torrid time there in the semi-final before he went off injured and Mannion is a more accomplished footballer.

Brigid’s worry will be the strength of their opponents’ panel. Cross have the superior bench — a real asset for a club on a playing surface like Headquarters’. There are the young guns like Martin Aherne and Kyle Carragher who have shown they can score in the nerviest of circumstances.

Veteran reserves John McEntee and Francie Bellew still have an incredible ability to calm their teams and don’t be surprised if they make vital

contributions.

Both teams have shown fantastic levels of fitness in their recent games. The pace of Crossmaglen’s win over Kilmacud Crokes was of an inter-county level as was the intensity (much more than any league game yet seen).

While Brigid’s showed incredible stamina to see off Killererin and Nemo Rangers in their last two games.

Leading up to today, Brigid’s really seemed to be milking their underdogs status. Too much, really. The bookmakers may be close to writing off their chances but their opponents won’t be as complacent as Nemo.

As McConville has said, the failure to put in a display at Croke Park for over 10 years is a galling status for a club as proud as Crossmaglen. That grim reality in itself will ensure they won’t be taking things for granted.

Yes, beating a team as built and formidable as Kilmacud Crokes could go to most teams’ head but not Crossmaglen. That win in Navan was more of an affirmation that they don’t just have a bevy of skilful players but ones that can roll their sleeves up too.

Today is unlikely to be as raw as that semi-final. Brigid’s like to play football as much as Crossmaglen. But Tony McEntee and Gareth O’Neill’s team have shown themselves to be a more evolved team in getting to the final.

Even when in arrears, they refuse to panic. If they can’t compose

themselves on games they’ll adapt to ensure they do while the management are rapid quick to make changes when things aren’t working.

Not only, they have beaten two recent All-Ireland winning teams along the way as opposed to Brigid’s getting the better of one.

For Crossmaglen to surrender now when they have the scalps of St Galls and Crokes still fresh under their belts would be an unmitigated disaster. It can’t happen. It won’t happen. But it will be a close run thing.

Verdict: Crossmaglen Rangers

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