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27 February 1997 Edition

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Sportsview: Power Rangers!

By Sean O'Donaile

Most Republicans are familiar with the dreary town of Portlaoise; if you're not visiting a loved one in the jail, you're standing outside on a picket, cursing the weather and the Branchmen, and trying to wave up at the POWs. Maryborough (as it was once called) is also famous for its greasy chicken `n' chip takeaways, and Ireland's most exotic disco, ``The Wild Turkey''. It made a change to be going to a football match there and without a Branchman or a turkey to be seen.

The last time Crossmaglen lost a championship match was against Mullaghbawn in 1995 and UTV added salt to the wound by including it as part of a documentary about Ulster football. It seems to have had a good effect as Cross' have now gone 44 games unbeaten in Ireland and now lie at the brink of their greatest achievement.

Players from clubs steeped in tradition usually have to put up with plenty of guff from their elders about ``d'aul days when men were men and tied string around their togs''. Cross' won six county titles in the 60s and Joe Kernan led the way in the 70s, playing in Armagh's great win over Roscommon in `77.

This side is a result of hard work at underage level and a successful youth policy, winning four Under 21 titles on the trot and culminating in last Sunday's All Ireland semi-final win over Kerry's Laune Rangers, who created their own history last year by capturing the All Ireland title for the first time.

Cross' were definitely the stronger side in the first half and somewhat unlucky to be a point behind at the break. Michael Russell kept the Kerry flag alive with a fortuitous goal early on and it was he who led the way in the second period slotting over two points as Cross' struggled to take a decisive lead. There were some excellent individual scores as we moved towards the close, and with a minute left Oisín McConville swung over an excellent point, quickly followed by Tony McEntee and that was that. The All Ireland Champions didn't have time to respond and south Armagh's finest triumphed by 1-8 to 1-7. And not a helicopter to be seen!

They will have their work cut out if they're to defeat Mayo's Knockmore, who trounched competition specialists Eire Og of Carlow. This side is laden with talented footballers, none more than the precocious Padraig Brogan and Kevin O'Neill, who finally seems to be recovering his All Star form. They were utterly dominant from start to finish, winning by eighteen points and will be a hard act to beat. Eire Og, winners of four Leinster titles, seem to be at the end of their reign and Carlow will have to go back to being famous for making hair dryers.

Finally a word of advice for all those Sinn Féin shareholders and big spenders. Finn Harps FC are currently selling shares for £250 and if they're a quarter as successful as Celtic, the venture will be a success. So dig deep and don't be wasting money on Man United jersies. The future lies in Ballybofey!

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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