This result will, inevitably, be second-guessed on the basis of Drom’s postal address in Limerick but let’s have none of that. Few clubs would have lived with Crossmaglen on Saturday. Maybe none at all.
One or two of the Limerick lads left the field in tears but most were too shell-shocked to betray any emotion. Their manager John Brudáir summed it up best in the aftermath
He said: “Cross were brilliant. We played Nemo Rangers and felt very comfortable against them. We felt in total control of the game all through whereas we weren’t in control for one minute against Cross. They totally outplayed us with their power and pace. It was a joy to behold if you weren’t involved with the other team.
“They are a credit to their club and I hope they go on to win the All-Ireland. Again.”
The Munster champions were about as fancied as the outside bet in a Grand National but they didn’t roll over. Drom/Broadford prodded and probed for some sign of weakness in the opposition ranks but it was a forlorn search.
They managed to take the lead through a superb Patrick Donnelly sideline inside the first minute but then their next move broke down and, within seconds, Jamie Clarke had rustled their rigging.
John Murtagh did likewise before the clock had wound its way into double digits and Cross had 2-4 scored, all from play, after 13 minutes. They hadn’t even paused to contemplate the loss of midfield general Tony McEntee after five minutes.
Crossmaglen were dictating the script in every department. They lorded midfield, even with the aforementioned veteran gone, led the Drom defence a merry dance and squeezed the Limerick forwards with ruthless ease.
Jason Stokes fought the good fight in the middle third while Ray Lynch plugged away manfully up front but they were largely alone fighting the rising tide. Micheal Reidy, the side’s marquee forward, failed to score from play.
Cross manager Donal Murtagh didn’t seem overly surprised by the nature of events afterwards and pointed to Drom’s propensity to overdo the short-passing game as one of the keys to the comprehensive victory.
It was a stunning performance from the south Armagh side given the fact that, like the other three semi-finalists, they had been in competitive hibernation for over two months.
“We were better able to cope with that more than most because we have been here seven times this last 13 years,” said Murtagh. “We had four challenge matches and we were beaten in some of them but I wasn’t too worried.
“I was chopping and changing the panel the whole time.”
Two more goals after the break from Tony Kernan, one from a stray Drom pass across their own area, allowed Murtagh to mix and match again. Cross emptied their bench by the final quarter. Their strength in depth is unquestionable.
The names of Jamie Clarke and John Murtagh have yet to infiltrate the national consciousness but the pair contributed 2-3 from play here. John Hanratty, an emerging star of the 2007 All-Ireland winning team, was only a reserve.
“They have a serious panel,” said Brudáir. “They didn’t even start Stephen Kernan and the next thing you know he has come on and has had a smashing game. They can pick and choose and we don’t have that luxury. They probably have 25 fellas in serious contention with power and pace and it was that power and pace that caught us off guard. We stood up to Nemo and Kilmurray-Ibrickane physically but we were thrown around there.”
That was most apparent in the frequency with which Drom-Broadford coughed up possession when they went into contact and it made for a dispiriting end to what had been an otherwise uplifting season.
“We are very proud of our lads. We have only come into the football scene the last 10 or 15 years and to get this far is a huge credit. They will be demoralised and probably embarrassed about it but to beat Nemo Rangers and Kilmurray-Ibrickane and win our fourth county title in 10 years … you would take that.”
As for Cross, they march on with grim intent. Nemo Rangers’ record of seven All-Ireland titles is their stated goal and it says much about them that they are even willing to discuss that in public given the distance they have yet to travel.
“We’ve won four and probably should’ve won six but that is the long-term goal,” said Murtagh. “The final will be a tough match. We played Kilmacud Crokes in a challenge six months ago. There was a point in it. There won’t be much in it again.”
Scorers for Crossmaglen Rangers: T Kernan 2-0, J Clarke 1-2, J Murtagh 1-1, O McConville 0-4 (1f), A Kernan 0-2 (1f), S Kernan 0-2, K Carragher 0-1.
Scorers for Dromcollogher-Broadford: R Lynch 0-2, M Reidy 0-2f, P Donnelly 0-1, G Egan 0-1.
CROSSMAGLEN RANGERS: P Hearty; B McKeown, P Kernan, P McKeown; A Kernan, F Bellew, J Donaldson; T McEntee, D McKenna; , T McNamee, J McEntee, J Clarke; T Kernan, J Murtagh, O McConville.
Subs: S Kernan for T McEntee (5), K Carragher for Murtagh (46), S Finnegan for Donaldson (46), M Aherne for McNamee (46), J Hanratty for McConville (51).
DROMCOLLOGHER-BROADFORD: E Scollard; D O’Leary, T Stack, E Barry; N Conway, T McLoughlin, M Clancy; P Donnelly, J Stokes; G Egan, D McCarthy, M Reidy, S Buckley, R Lynch, G Noonan.
Subs: D Culhane for Clancy (38), J O’Kelly for Noonan (54), M O’Sullivan for Donnelly (55), J Ryan for Egan (60).
Referee: D Fahy (Longford).