Sports

Maghery prove their worth

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

THIS eagerly awaited second round Senior tie between the reigning champions, Maghery and the former long term champions, Crossmaglen lived up to its expected intense and competitive billing.

Maghery Shamrocks ...3-7
Crossmaglen Rangers ...1-8

What the game and outcome told us was that Maghery were deserving holders of their title and have improved immensely tactically, physically and personnel wise over the past year while Cross', though still unpredictable, ruthless and good at what they do, are not the team they were in terms of passion, will-to-win and ability to win handsomely or close out games effectively.

The pattern of how play panned out when the game is considered quarter-by-quarter.

Maghery dominated the first and final quarters while Cross' held sway in the second and third quarters (the middle part of the game either side of half-time).

The first quarter began with Maghery the more eager but Brian Fox dropped the ball in front of goals when a chance was on.

The clearance brought a sideline ball to Maghery which was clinically converted by Stefan Forker.

James Lavery initiated an attack from the kick-out catch which led to a '45' that 'keeper Johnny Montgomery converted.

When Ronan Lappin was fouled, Aidan Forker converted and a minute later a great catch by James Lavery went through Stephen Cusack for a great team point by David Lavery after seven minutes.

Maghery wouldn't score again until 15 minutes into the second quarter, yet, they still controlled the first quarter and kept Cross' scoreless by using a 3-2-3 defensive wall which rendered Aaron Kernan etc unable to feed ball advantageously to the forwards.

Just into the second quarter, Jamie Clarke came on with a four man move ending with Kyle Carragher posting a first Cross' score.

Their second arrived shortly after a long kick-out found Jamie Clarke and his great pass over the shoulder had Stephen Kernan point.

Cross were now in the ascendancy but not as potent as in the past.

Caolan Dillon fed Jamie Clarke who won a free for Oisin O'Neill to convert.

There were no more scores up to half-time as defences in that first half had been ruthless, effective and in swarm control.

Maghery led 4-3 at the interval, leaving supporters perplexed at where the game was going as neither side had taken dominant control.

That notion changed early into the second half.

Aaron Kernan's (free) point soon after the restart suggested Cross' were in take over poise.

Soon after that suggestion was endorsed by a Kyle Carragher defence splitting pass for a Jamie Clarke goal.

Rian O'Neill soon added a pointed free as Cross' led by four.

Both sides brought on a clutch of 'subs' to try to inject some intensity into the game.

It was obvious that Cross', a mix of budding youth and over seasoned experienced, were finding it hard to take control as Maghery matched all they threw at them.

By the stroke of the third quarter end, Stefan Forker pointed a free and significant tactical changes by Maghery, emphasized the rising of one team stature against the slipping of the other team's stature.

James Lavery flitted between full back and midfield to win primary possession along with Ben Crealey.

With the tall and taller than Paul Hearty, Daniel Higgins now on at full forward, Maghery opted for a long ball to the square. Oh how it worked as Maghery outscored Cross' 3-2 to 0-3 in that final quarter, the reverse of what it had been for some 20 years past.

Third quarter scoring began with James Lavery kicking in a speculative high ball which remarkably evaded all to bounce in the square, hit into the Cross' net.

The influential Stephen Cusack added a Maghery point replied to by a Paul Hughes overlap point set up by Aaron Kernan and Jamie Clarke.

The crucial and critical turning point of the game arrived when Johnny Montgomery spread point blank to save a certain goal from Kyle Carragher's volley.

The aura of Crossmaglen's invincibility seemed to evaporate in that moment. Within a minute, the Cross' quest for victory had vanished.

A high ball to the square saw Paul Hearty collect but spill and Daniel Higgins poked the ball to the net.

From the kick-out Maghery won a sideline free and Aidan Forker's kick eluded all again to nestle in the net.

From that kick-out, Ben Crealey hit a high long ball over the bar. Maghery were now seven ahead with 10 minutes to go.

The game became feisty and niggly after that but referee, Oliver Hearty gently but firmly and with little fuss calmed matters down quickly without cards being issued to boot.

Cross' were now a deal recovered and attacking in earnest again but Maghery became highly disciplined and defended stoically rendering Aaron Kernan and Paul McKeown late points as consolation scores.

The final whistle sounded amid Maghery euphoria and Crossmaglen's dignified acceptance of defeat.

The irony of the situation is that both could meet again before this championship is over.

James Lavery, Stephen Cusack, Ben Crealey, Johnny Montgomery and David Lavery excelled in Maghery's victory, while Aaron Kernan, Rico Kelly, Paul Hughes and Kyle Carragher were best for Cross.

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