CLUB kingpins, Crossmaglen, face Down champions Kilcoo in the Ulster Final on Sunday in Armagh,
There’s not a whole lot more that can be said about Crossmaglen that hasn’t been said already. Their exploits and achievements defy logic, and there is something about them that clearly goes beyond earthly explanation.
They came through the Armagh championship this year for the 16th time in 17 seasons, and kicked off their Ulster campaign with a straightforward win in the quarter-final against Donegal champions St. Eunan’s (3-11 to 1-7). Their win in the semi-final was arguably even more impressive, dismissing fancied Tyrone champions Errigal Ciarán with relative ease (2-10 to 0-10).
They have won the last two All-Ireland titles, and are bidding to become the first team to ever win three in a row. Kilcoo will provide a serious challenge, everything about them so far points to that. But the prospect of a 10th Ulster title, and a tilt at the three in a row will surely prove irrestistible for the greatest club side of them all.
Kilcoo won the Down title with a thrilling victory over Mayobridge, only their second victory in the county since 1937. Their path through the province since then has been inspired.
They recorded a very impressive win in the quarter-final, comfortably seeing off Monaghan champions Ballybay (0-13 to 0-7), and then they pulled off one of the upsets of the overall club championship in the semi-final, defeating fancied St. Gall’s (1-9 to 0-10).
That win has created a real sense of hope around the club that they can go where no club has ever gone before, and defeat Crossmaglen in an Ulster final, and in the process, win their first ever Ulster title.
Managed astutely by Jim McCorry, Kilcoo are backboned by a trio of Branagans in defence (Aaran, Aidan and Niall), while up front Paul and Anthony Devlin provide valuable support to Down forward Conor Laverty.