McEntee knew Cross would face tough battle

The pity of it is that all the headlines today should have been shouting out the fact Oisin McConville and Paul Hearty claimed their 10th Ulster Club titles in Armagh yesterday.

Of course, the allegations of racism which subsequently blighted this fixture ensured that this was anything but the perfect 10 but so, too, did Kilcoo who transformed a cakewalk into a contest from the most unpromising of scenarios. Cross manager Tony McEntee had predicted that the Down champions would compete for 60 minutes come what may, and he was proven right.

“Yeah, but I didn’t think that we would only play for 15 minutes,” he added yesterday evening. “In the first half, we played for 15 minutes. Then we stopped completely. The last 15 minutes of the first-half, we were showboating and messing and throwing the ball around and not being clinical up front.”

McEntee lost full-back Paul Kernan to a shoulder injury and Stephen Kernan to a hamstring twinge but neither sounded serious enough to rule them out of February’s All-Ireland semi-final against St Brigid’s of Roscommon.

Cross also lost two men, Jamie Clarke and Michael McNamee, to red cards but their manager was unhappy that the former did not receive greater protection from officials prior to his premature exit.

“Jamie Clarke’s dismissal was after 55 minutes of abuse up there, physical abuse. His yellow card on the sideline, when he had four men on top of him and he was pulled out and got a yellow, was beyond me.”

All in all, then, this was a good day marred by a handful of regrettable instances but Crossmaglen will carry the burden of expectation into the New Year as they chase a hat-trick of All-Ireland titles.

“We’re taking a month break now, right up until the New Year. We’ll do nothing whatsoever. We’ll get back in January. We’re playing St Brigid’s, an adversary of old from Roscommon. We had two close, physical battles with them in recent years and it’ll be no different.”

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