Cross snatch second chance

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Crossmaglen 3-8 Sarsfields 2-11
HISTORY repeated itself at Mullabrack on Sunday as tenacious Crossmaglen snatched an Armagh Intermediate Championship final replay lifeline with a last-gasp goal for the second time in five seasons.
Cross had needed two injury-time goals from teenage prospect Lauren McConville and captain Maria O'Donnell to grab a draw with Grange in the Athletic Grounds last time they reached the Intermediate decider in 2013.
This time, a team managed by O'Donnell and captained by McConville, now an established star for Armagh, also found themselves trailing near the final whistle after a scrambled Sarsfields goal earlier in injury-time.
It would have been cruel luck losing in such circumstances but, rather than accepting their harsh fate, Cross poured downfield and were rewarded with a priceless equalising goal from Armagh's Aveen Donaldson seconds before the final whistle.
Considering Donaldson had needed lengthy treatment a short time earlier after being laid out in a heavy accidental collision, her crucial intervention right at the end was a remarkable recovery in every sense.
Incidentally Donaldson might have had a goal in the closing seconds of the opening period too but referee Kieran McKeever controversially blew the half-time whistle with the Armagh midfielder steaming into scoring range.
A draw was a fair result for two teams who were level going into added time and, although it was Cross left requiring the last score, they had looked like a good bet to win for much of the second half with the wind behind them.
The underdogs definitely deserved a second chance and in the end were relieved to get it, though they will also rue not being able to push on to victory in the last quarter after building some momentum.
Crossmaglen got off to a lively start but, with nerves evident and the wind difficult to adjust to, they had hit three wides before Armagh Minors forward Alex Clarke kicked a free in the third minute for the opening point of the match.
Two scores from captain Niamh Markey nudged Sarsfields in front and they went three up courtesy of points from Elisha Donnelly and Michaela Doyle before Clarke raised her second white flag from an acute angle.
Markey and Armagh Minor Megan O'Callaghan exchanged points before Cross netted twice in a 60-second purple patch, McConville playing an absolutely sublime ball in for Mairead Watters to fist home and then pouncing on a loose ball to go through herself for a soccer-style finish.
Sarsfields responded right away with a Dearbhail Campbell goal and they still led by one at the break before Markey doubled the lead within 60 seconds of the resumption.
Sarah Armstrong, who had netted twice in Crossmaglen's semi-final upset of fancied Dromintee, kicked two good second half scores while McConville and Clarke chipped in with a point apiece as Campbell, Donnelly and Doyle raised white flags for Sarsfields.
Inspirational skipper McConville, who top-scored with 1-2, sent over a long-range free to level the scores shortly before the big break while Donaldson received attention and then that final flourish of a goal at either end saw this absorbing game end in a dramatic draw, with replay details yet to be confirmed.
CROSSMAGLEN: M Luckie; C O'Callaghan, M Cannon, O Murtagh; F Fitzpatrick, A McMahon, O Donaldson; S O'Callaghan, T O'Callaghan; M O'Callaghan, L McConville (capt), M Watters; A Clarke, A Donaldson, S Armstrong.  Subs: N Hamill for C O'Callaghan (47 mins).
SARSFIELDS: B Shanks; E Cassidy, C Haddock, O Ward; N McCarthy, S Mooney, A McAlinden; N McAlinden, L O'Hagan; M Doyle, JA Hamilton, E Donnelly; D Campbell, N Markey (capt), A Lennon.  Subs: E McNally for Ward (ht), D Devlin for Hamilton (42).
Referee: Kieran McKeever (Ballyhegan).


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