Search icon


04th Nov 2019

Defenders do everything right yet Conor McManus kicks boomer off balance and off the left

Niall McIntyre

Honestly, what is a defender supposed to do?

There is nothing. No way. It’s like trying to finish a bowl of soup with a fork. Conor McManus will leave you for dead.

Monaghan champs Clontibret O’Neill’s went into Saturday night’s Ulster club first round against Crossmaglen as live underdogs. 3/1 outsiders and written off by many, they were up to Armagh and into the lion’s den.

They have Conor McManus though and they have a lion too. John McEntee. The legendary Crossmaglen Rangers player and former manager knows that club like the back of his hand but he was on the Clontibret side here.

He lives and breathes Crossmaglen, but he had a job to do and there’s no better man for it.

As for McManus, he’s part of a select group of footballers who can do astounding things. He was on it from early doors Saturday night.

It was a typical November evening up in the Athletic Grounds. Dull, dreary and cold. Bodywarmer weather but that man McManus was as bright as the lights in the early stages and his fourth minute point was one to make jaws drop.

One to lift a team to the sky. One to break a defender’s heart and spirit. One to make youngster’s dream.

McManus won a hard ball about thirty yards out but he was being well marshalled by some hungry Cross defenders. They hassled and harried. They did enough to knock him off balance and it would have been enough to knock the ball off enough most players.

But McManus sprinted like the clappers of hell. And the ball was in his control and nobody else’s.

So with two Cross defenders right on him, Manzie let one rip off the left. You didn’t expect it. Running away from the goals, most players would stay running.

You definitely didn’t expect it to go over. McManus’ shot rocketed into the sky and bombed straight over the bar. It was the work of a magician.

He went onto slot five more nerve-jangling frees to help his club to a one point victory over Cross.

As for John McEntee, it was a very unusual situation for him, plotting the downfall of the club for whom he’s won so much. The tone of his voice afterwards showed it killed him to do it, but he’s a competitor too and Clontibret bounce on.

“I’m still a Crossmaglen man. I’m sorry to see my club losing.”

The swings and roundabouts of the club championship.