Weeshie's Week

Crossmaglen Rangers - One of the greatest club sides we have seen

February 21st, 2012
by Weeshie Fogarty

In Portlaoise last Sunday we were again shown proof if proof was ever needed that Crossmaglen are one of the greatest club sides we have seen over the last thirty yeas or so. The Crokes began this all Ireland club semi-final in devastating fashion.  The were playing superb football. After 21 minutes of this fantastic game Crossmaglen were stunned and found themselves training 1-5 to 0-1 as the Killarney side ripped them apart. Then the Armagh men clawed themselves back into the game.  They simply strive on adversity.  The goal before half time was vital as Oisin McConville set up Mick McNamee and the scales began to tilt in favour of the All Ireland champions. Then we saw three incident which in my opinion decide the result and showed one and all why Crossmaglen have won fifteen out of sixteen county titles, nine Ulster titles and on course for six All-Ireland club titles since 1996.  What a phenomenal record.

Just before half time Crokes corner back John Payne was surrounded by a posse of Cross players on his own end line. He was forced to lose the ball, a foul resulted and Stephen Kernan pointed the free. Cross then won the ball from the re-start after half time, another long ball into the danger area, Luke Quinn the Crokes full back was also forced to foul the ball near his own goal as he was swarmed by his opponents and another point from the free resulted. The winner had literally upped their game to a new and awesome level as if just throwing a switch, they took over mid field, and Crokes despite great efforts from Ambrose o Donovan, Johnny Buckley and particularly the outstanding Eoin Brosnan were simply outplayed. 

Crossmaglen play a superb brand of direct football with the very minimum of cross field or back passing which is the ruination of to day's game. They move the ball forward with speed and purpose and last Saturday their main target man was not a big towering full forward but a small superb little player, Jamie Clarke. He was the man who dictated the whole game in my opinion. He was plied with a string of lovely low passes, he collect ever ball with skill, bravery and assurance, and he stayed near the Crokes goal area setting up a succession of great attacks. The longer the game went on the better the Northern side got despite being reduced to fourteen men and Crokes game especially in the forward division was fragmented and continuously broke down.  Its not likely that this superb Armagh side will be beaten in the final, Crokes will of course be bitterly disappointed however its unlikely if any other side in the history of the competition including Nemo Rangers would defeat this Crossmaglen side. They are something very special. But one thing is sure and the team that will want to win this years Kerry county championship will have to beat the Crokes because they are far from a spent force.  

I have often lauded the greatness and uniqueness of the divisional championships here over the years and the more one experience the impact these championships have on the various clubs around the county the more you appreciate their importance.  Wither it be North, South, East, West or Mid Kerry the divisional championship can change the whole outlook and course of a club in the most dramatic way possible. And so it is with Glenbeigh/Glencar at the moment. Last Saturday night they celebrated their latest Mid Kerry Championship victory over famed Laune Rangers as half the parish it seemed was present at the Killarney Heights Hotel where the presentations of the medals took place.

It was a wonderful grass roots Kerry GAA occasion and I was privileged to be a guest on my return from Portlaoise as the celebrations continued long into the morning. The joy on winning  the championship, their first in thirty six long years had to be seen to be appreciated and often we are inclined to take victories for the so called smaller clubs entirely for granted. But on this occasion for Glenbeigh/Glencar the victory was probably appreciated more than any other in their glorious history. Things have changed so much in so many different ways in those intervening thirty six years.   They won their first championship in 1956. It was an evening of great football talk as young and old mingled freely together recalling great games, great players and the various wins and losses. Ambrose o Donovan the winning Kerry captain of 1984 was also in attendance. The organizing committee did a tremendous job and the presentations were run off with near military style precision during the courses of what was a sumptuous meal.

One of the clubs great sons Graham Clifford now a journalist in London and in the very best GAA traditions had written a special song in memory of the victory and he literally brought the house down with his rendering of "The Mighty Glens", now incidentally available on CD. Another Glenbeigh resident and former Killarney Legion man Donal Brosnan was a s busy as the proverbial bee, taking photographs of all presentation and his DVD screening of the final victory brought loud roars of approval as a crucial score or save flashed up on the screen.  It was great stuff, heart warming and very special. The craic, the atmosphere, the camaraderie, the pride of place and passion for the cause was very evident as this little club who continue to battle emigration, defeats and depopulation united to celebrate their Mid Kerry championship victory.

And while high praise and plaudits were lavished by the various speakers on their neighbors Milltown/ Castlemains glorious All Ireland Intermediate victory there was a an underling sense of added pride by those present having added the scalp of Kerrys latest All Ireland winning heroes along the way.  Here then is just a little example of all that is good and great in the GAA. No mention of payments for those devoting countless hours necessary for doing the work demanded to keep their club on the road. No grumbling or grousing about all the hours and travelling and commitment needed, all that is left to those constantly in the national limelight and some managers of the GAA which we read about most days. Sponsorship for this little club is provided by their very own and even one of their former players, Pedar o Sullivan (his family have been a corner stone for decades), now a senior selector backs the club with his own money.  But for me Glenbei8gh/ Glencar epitomize everything that is great and good in our small, often unsuccessful clubs scattered around this great GAA county. It was a privilege having been asked to be part of it for that one memorable occasion.

The 1974 Glenbeigh/Glencar team who beat Keel in a replay as the Mid Kerry Championship were honored at the function. The winning team was as follows: Teddy Bowler, Liam Scully, Micheal Griffin, J.Dwyer, Pat McGillicuddy, Jimmy Healy, Pat Riordan, Mike Breen, Neil Sullivan, Owen Riordan, Derry Sullivan, Michael O'Grady, Connie Sullivan, Gerry Riordan, and Kevin Griffin.

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