Ranger's crash out but Cross will bounce back
Tuesday, 19 February 2013
Crossmaglen Rangers 1-09. St Brigid's 2-07.
CROSSMAGLEN'S dream of becoming the first team to win three Senior All-Ireland Club titles in a row were crushed by a strong St Brigid's side on Saturday.
Conor McHugh's goal, four minutes from time, was the killer blow in what was a thrilling, end-to-end, absorbing and intense, physical contest.
Rangers suffered a hammer blow on 21 minutes when talisman Oisin McConville was taken off injured. At that moment, Rangers lost the player who had pulled them out of tight situations and won games almost single-handedly on numerous occasions throughout the years.
When Crossmaglen needed a score, McConville would deliver but having taken a knock prior to Saturday's game, it was never likely he would play the full hour._In the closing stages Rangers had chances to grab an equaliser but Johnny Hanratty, who had an outstanding game along with David McKenna in midfield, kicked narrowly wide. Jamie Clarke, who was consistently fouled throughout the game but who only earned one free, tried to conjure a piece of magic in front of goal and he displayed his dazzling skills, but his point in the closing stages wasn't enough.
St Brigid's have been pushing for three years to reach an All-Ireland Final, something Crossmaglen denied them and they now have a great chance of success against Dublin side Ballymun Kickhams on St Patrick's Day. The Rangers players don't owe anybody anything. Saturday's performance was below par and even great teams such as Crossmaglen can't afford to carry players in an All-Ireland semi-final.
Manager Tony McEntee has often spoken about his only concern being whether his team performs on any given day or not. He knows that if Crossmaglen are switched on and play to their ability they can't be caught. As McConville writes in his column, it was a bad day at the office for Rangers, and they still only lost by a point.
Kyle Carragher's point after 14 seconds was the start Rangers wanted but conceding Frankie Dolan's goal a minute later certainly was not. Cathal McHugh and Frankie Dolan (free) stretched St Brigid's lead as Clarke, Paul Hughes and David McKenna kicked wide.
However, on 12 minutes Rangers were back in the game when Hanratty won possession and passed to Martin Aherne, who powered forward and passed to Clarke, young Hughes sprinted 40 metres unmarked and found space in front of goal where he received Clarke's pass and coolly slotted into the net.
And 90 seconds later Rangers were back in front after Kyle Carragher steadied himself to shoot between the sticks.
From the opening stages it became apparent that referee Maurice Deegan would allow St Brigid's players to hang on to Clarke's jersey and drag their studs down the back of McKenna's legs, and for Armagh fans it was a case of 'here we ago again' from Laois referee, as his decisions did not stack up.
Senan Kilbride levelled the score on 23 minutes, but Kyle Brennan, having replaced McConville showed conviction after being fouled but not receiving a free, he got back on his feet and drilled over the bar._Frankie Dolan kicked a few frees wide, while Crossmaglen's Stephen Kernan also missed a free. Clarke though, after receiving an intelligent pass from Tony Kernan, kicked over to give Rangers a two-point lead at the break.
Half-time: Crossmaglen 1-05 St Brigid's 1-03
Immediately after the restart Rangers should have bagged a goal when Clarke brilliantly gifted Brennan an opportunity with the empty net showing, but the young substitute blazed his effort narrowly wide. It was a miss that proved costly as Cross had to wait another 21 minutes before scoring.
Senan Kilbride narrowed the gap and on 34 minutes Rangers suffered another blow, when full-back Paul Kernan, who has been the best full-back in Armagh for the past two seasons, was taken off after dislocating his shoulder. Aaron Cunningham came off the bench to play in the forwards, with Aherne dropping back and James Morgan going into full-back. On 37 minutes James Morgan received a yellow card for making a tackle, which was a ludicrous decision from the referee and Frankie Dolan converted the resulting free to level the score.
Stephen Kernan, who stepped up after McConville was taken off, had two frees with one drifting narrowly wide and the other dropping into the square for Karl Mannion to clear from the goal-line.
St Brigid's talisman Cathal Hughes gave his side the lead after he out-jumped Danny O'Callaghan, catching the high-ball and struck over the bar. Frankie Dolan then gave the Roscommon side a two-point lead but McKenna shortened the deficit after a quick 45 from Aaron Kernan.
And the score was level again after Clarke finished off good work between Aherne and Aaron Kernan and then Kernan himself scored a point, to turn the game around in 90 seconds and put Crossmaglen back in the driving seat. With McKenna winning hotly contested possession in the middle it was expected that Cross would finish with their usual flourish.
However, St Brigid's delivered that second goal and Rangers were behind again. Kyle Carragher was sent off after clashing with St Brigid's keeper Shane Curran. The keeper lay on the ground and only seconds after Deegan produced his red card, Curran stood up, put his fists in the air to celebrate and then jumped, kicking his heels, to the cheers and jibes from the large crowd.
Three minutes of injury-time was announced and Clarke, who gave everything for the hour, popped over a point, but St Brigid's held on for a memorable victory. It is just less than three and a half year's since Pearse Ogs defeated Crossmaglen in the club championship and they bounced back incredibly. Crossmaglen Rangers will continue to be a footballing force in the GAA. Over the three seasons they have won two All-Ireland titles, three Ulster titles and three Armagh Senior Club Championships - that's 28 championship games unbeaten, which is a remarkable record.
They are a young and talented squad and Crossmaglen have the coaching staff at underage level to bring players through to the senior ranks. Manager's Tony McEntee and Gareth O'Neill may decide to step down and that would be a blow, as would losing the talent of Oisin McConville if he decides to retire but Rangers know how to react.
They remain the blueprint for successful clubs to follow and Crossmaglen will be as hungry as ever next season.
CROSSMAGLEN RANGERS: Paul Hearty, Paul McKeown, Paul Kernan, James Morgan, Aaron Kernan (0-2, 1 free), Danny O'Callaghan, Paul Hughes (1-0), Johnny Hanratty, David McKenna (0-1), Martin Aherne, Stephen Kernan, Tony Kernan, Jamie Clarke (0-3), Kyle Carragher (0-2) and Oisin McConville. Subs used: Kyle Brennan (0-1) for McConville 21', Aaron Cunningham for P Kernan 34', Callum Cumiskey 59' and Mel Boyce for Danny O'Callaghan 60'.
ST BRIGID'S: S Curran, R Stack, P Domican, N Grehan, G Cunniffe, D Donnelly, G Dolan, G Aherne, I Kilbride, D Dolan, K Mannion, Cathal McHugh (0-2), S Kilbride (0-2, frees), Frankie Dolan (1-3, 2 frees), and R Blaine.Subs used: E Sheehy for G Dolan 31', D Kelleher for N Grehen 43, Conor McHugh (1-0), for Cathal McHugh 53', G Dolan for D Dolan.
Send to a friend
Please complete the following form to inform a friend about this page.