Sunday 17 December 2017

Cross' diagnosis not good for Dr Crokes

THIS promised to be a spicy enough affair even before Derrytresk and Dromid got stuck into each other at the same venue.

That infamous O'Moore Park brawl prompted some media comments from the Dr Crokes chairman, expressing concern about stewarding for their semi-final. Cue a raft of headlines suggesting calls for fan segregation -- and a hasty clarification from the club, denying this was the case at all.

Either way, the Crokes management and players can't have been best pleased with how the story played out. Crossmaglen are a formidable enough rival without offering them additional motivation.

That said, the likes of Colm Cooper (pictured) and Eoin Brosnan won't lack for incentive as they recall the All-Ireland title that got away. But for Oisín McConville's last-gasp equaliser, they would have toppled Crossmaglen in 2007.

The bad-tempered replay is likely to carry equally bitter memories, given the ref's failure to send off John McEntee with the sides level -- despite brandishing a second yellow card.

The Armagh men eventually ran out five-point winners and, since then, McEntee's twin brother, Tony, has taken over as manager and overseen a major overhaul. Not that the results have changed: Cross keep on winning, be it the hard way or easy.

Last year's All-Ireland campaign showcased their ability to dig out wins when all is not going their way (against Kilmacud Crokes and St Brigid's), but their latest Ulster title defence was pretty emphatic: they averaged 2-12 per game while seeing off St Gall's, Ballinderry and Burren.

Crokes have been marginally more prolific down south, and their impressive Munster final defeat of UCC was suggestive of a team on a mission. But that mission will be tested to the limit by the Kernans, Oisín McConville and Jamie Clarke -- the ultimate blue-chip mix of old and new.

ODDS: Crossmaglen 8/15, Draw 15/2, Dr Crokes 2/1

VERDICT: Crossmaglen

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