By Shaun Casey
CROSSMAGLEN have never lost three county finals in a row. Last year’s defeat to Clann Éireann was the first time since 1944 that the Rangers lost back-to-back deciders following their defeat to Maghery in 2020 and their hoping to right those wrongs against Granemore this Sunday.
Captain Stephen Morris insists there’s a lot of motivation inside the Crossmaglen changing room as they aim to get their hands back on the Gerry Fagan Cup.
“The way we lost the last two especially was tough so there’s a lot of motivation going into this one after the last two years. It’s good to get back at it,” said Morris, who missed out on the 2020 showpiece due to a hand injury.
“I was captain last year, so it was a tough one to take. But we just weren’t good enough on the day so hopefully we’ll try to rectify that this year.”
Morris gave a solid performance in Crossmaglen’s semi-final victory over Maghery, when they took the Loughshore men by surprise with the way they eased through to their fifth final in a row.
“We needed it (a big performance) against Maghery because we’ve had a couple of big battles with them over the last couple of years. We played well, we clicked well, it was good to get over it.
“It was probably the best start we had to a game in the last couple of years. The goal was obviously a bit lucky but it’s nice to have that luck on your side. Then we kicked on from there, so it was good to get over.
“We knew who we were playing and over the last couple of years we probably haven’t played as well as we wanted to against them, and they’ve got the better of us a couple of times. It was just that wee bit of extra motivation of who it was and the semi-final, it came together nicely.”
There’s a lot of younger players part of Stephen Kernan’s squad that have yet to get their hands on a senior county medal. The likes of Dara O’Callaghan will be starting his third county final in a row while Ronan Fitzpatrick and Caolan Finnegan (still u-19s) will be lining out in their second.
“We’ve a load of good young lads, a couple of young fellas on the bench still with the u-19s. Even at training they’re pushing everyone on. They mightn’t feature every weekend but they’re pushing everyone on and making us a better team.”
But they still have a few older head knocking around the team, and thse addition of Jamie Clarke has been huge for Cross this year. Class is permanent and all that.
“He’s brilliant. It’s great to have him back on the panel. He’s experienced as well, he’s not that young man anymore but the way he played the other day and the way he’s getting better each and every week. Even in training, it’s great to have him back and for the young fellas to look up to.”