Cian McConville making his mark in the family business
By John Harrington
The day Cian McConville was born his father Jim starred for Crossmaglen Rangers when they defeated Na Fianna in the 2000 AIB All-Ireland Club Final.
Presumably Jim made a quick dash to the hospital after the match to hold his new son, but there was no chance he was going to miss an All-Ireland Final.
Growing up in a family with such a passion for football, there was always a very good chance that Cian would some day follow in his father’s footsteps and become an important player for Crossmaglen Rangers.
The 22-year-old is very much that now. In a team boasting stellar attacking talents like Rian O’Neill and Jamie Clarke, he’s been their best forward in recent weeks.
He scored 1-3 in the Armagh SFC semi-final against Maghery and eight points (four frees) in the County Final victory over Granemore.
“He's definitely starting to come of age,” says his Uncle and Crossmaglen and Armagh legend, Oisin McConille.
“To be honest, the two years he's had there with the county has really helped as far as conditioning and all that.
“It's definitely brought him on. We would have been disappointed he didn't have much game-time with Armagh, very little game-time in fact.
“I think Geezer (Armagh manager, Kieran McGeeney) likes them to do a couple of years to make sure they're going to stick around and then once they've proven themselves he gives them their head.
“Cian's stuck at it and now is being rewarded for that with his form with the club.”
Crossmaglen remain way out in front of the chasing pack in terms of Ulster titles won with 11 to their name, six ahead of Down club St. Mary’s of Burren.
Their last one came seven years ago though, which is a relative famine by their standards considering they won 8 in 12 years from 2004 to 2015.
As they prepare to launch another assault on the province with a first round clash against Monaghan champions Ballybay on Saturday night, how well equipped are they to yet another Ulster title to their roll of honour?
“I think there have been incremental improvements from them throughout the year,” says McConville.
“There were a couple of games where they really struggled and then in the semi-final something just seemed to click with the younger boys and there's a good blend there now.
“I think that's the one thing we've always had when things are going well - a good blend of youth and experience. This year we definitely have that and the players are starting to combine well and work well together.
“Ballybay will be a big test. I managed in Monaghan for a number of years and they're a very dangerous outfit with very good forwards. It's basically a 50-50 game, but it's a game that Cross can realistically win.
“It's a very tasty Ulster Championship. It's a little bit like 20 years ago. Errigal Ciaran back, Enniskillen Gaels back, Naomh Conaill are back, then you have Kilcoo, Crossmaglen, and a sprinkling of new blood in Watty Grahams and Ballybay and Gowna. There's a nice springkling of past and future.”