By Michael McMullan
TWELVE months after a league reshuffle saw Crossmaglen down to the intermediate camogie ranks; they have the Armagh title in the bank and are an hour away from more silver.
They take on Cavan side Kill on Saturday (Castleblayney, 2pm) with an Ulster title up for grabs and Ríona McConville sums up the squad’s clear focus.
“We started off the season this time last year,” she said. “There was a clear focus that we wanted to win the Intermediate Championship; that was on our minds.”
The draw paired them with Middletown in the semi-final, another team who moved down from senior, before needing a replay to see off Derrynoose in the decider.
“After that, this opportunity opened up to get to an Ulster semi-final on home ground,” McConville added.
“The girls are a great bunch and took on everything that was being said. It was the next step up and now we find ourselves in an Ulster final.”
After their win over Middletown, Crossmaglen’s combination of inexperience and taking their eye off the ball almost saw them miss out on glory.
Many of the Derrynoose had played football and camogie finals at the BOX-IT Athletic Grounds, with Crossmaglen stepping in for the first time in five years with many of their younger players new to the scene.
“We can say the weather was bad, but we dominated for the first eight or ten minutes with Derrynoose not getting a score. Some of us got a bit too complacent and wrapped up in it all.”
Derrynoose came back into contention and Crossmaglen were left to refocus ahead of the replay.
“We knuckled down on what we needed to work on and we just got over the line against them the second day,” McConville pointed out.
“Finals are always a tough battle, no matter who you are playing, so we just focussed on us. For them (Derrynoose), they had a bit more hunger than we did the first time around but we picked it (performance) up and put it into play.”
Cross backed up with their title with victory over Derrylaughan and they’ll again focus on their own performance ahead of the Kill game.
They were winners over Ballinagh in the Cavan final, settings up another Breffni v Orchard game with Granemore taking on Crosserlough in the Junior A decider.
It’s no different to any other Ulster game across the coming weekends where knowledge on opponents can be limited.
“It is more about focussing on ourselves and working at what needs improved on, that has worked in our favour so far,” McConville said, also pointing to the dual impact.
With close to a dozen players featuring in football action, their dual pre-season training worked a treat. Rather than being overtraining, the Cross legs have been fresh when needed most.
“Any team in an Ulster final is a good team, but we are going to concentrate on ourselves. It is going to be a tough battle but we are going to try our best,” McConville concluded.