Kernan has continued faith in Cross

The faces may change, but the ethos and ambition that has made Crossmaglen Rangers the most successful club of the past two decades remains the same.

Despite reports of their imminent demise, Joe Kernan is convinced the squad will continue to be successful while it evolves.

The three-time All-Ireland-winning club manager has already secured Kernan his first piece of silverware of the season, the Armagh county title. And with his son Paul and Jamie Clarke travelling abroad, he has faith in the Crossmaglen conveyor belt.

“People in Armagh and beyond have been waiting on us to get beat for years,” he said.

“That is nothing new. The remarkable thing is that we keep winning. These young boys have the hunger to be as good as the team that won All-Irelands.

“Callum Cumiskey is 18 and he has a massive amount of potential. Paul Óg Grant is 20 years old and he is just back from an 18-month cruciate injury lay-off. Kyle Brennan and Kyle Carragher have been in and out of the team for a few years but they are standing up now.”

Perhaps ominously for clubs everywhere, Kernan added: “We’ve never had a better underage coaching system in place than we have now.”

That’s why they are second favourites to win this year’s All-Ireland. But, looking for a four in a row of provincial titles this year, Kernan thinks Sunday’s game in Newry against Kilcoo is as tough an opening Ulster fixture as they could have faced.

“Obviously it’s a repeat of last year’s Ulster final and coming out of Armagh, now we have to step up a level and this is where are resources are questioned.

“Kilcoo have proved themselves by winning three Down titles in the last five years and losing last year’s final to us will give them a hunger that other teams might not have had.”

The allegations of racist abuse which overshadowed Cross’s victory last year are still fresh but Kernan does not believe either side is carrying any baggage into the game.

“Both sides have worked hard to get back to this stage — it’s only about the winning now.

“At the start of the year we only think about winning the county title and once you do that, the handcuffs are off.”


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