McEntee in ref rage but Cross live to fight another day

Crossmaglen joint-manager Tony McEntee claimed the threat of suspension precluded him from speaking out against referee Rory Hickey’s performance on Saturday.

Asked for a comment on the standard of officiating, he said: “Not without suspensions following, no.”

However, he added: “We did find it hard to win frees out there. We certainly worked for those we got.”

McEntee was also reluctantly non-committal when asked if he would prefer a stronger referee for the replay. “I can’t comment on that,” he said.

It was apparent the 2002 All-Ireland winner was asking the media to read between the lines after a game in which he had every right to feel aggrieved with Hickey’s officiating.

David McKenna’s 56th minute point ensured a replay but, regardless of their spurned scoring chances at the death, Crossmaglen should have been awarded at least another couple of frees close to the Garrycastle goal.

The Armagh side rode their luck too, of course. Aaron Cunningham was fortunate to stay on the field after pushing Doron Harte over the hoardings in the first half.

But then Garrycastle’s Paul Dillon was blessed with clover after Hickey brandished him with a yellow card following a fifth-minute incident when he directed his head towards Brendan McKeown’s.

McEntee intimated that was a red card offence, but he was more aggrieved with the decision to remove suspended captain Stephen Kernan’s name from the match-day programme team sheet.

“I was more disappointed that the CCCC [Central Competitions Control Committee] took his name out of the team programme, pending his DRA decision on Thursday night. For some reason, they made up their own mind and put somebody else in instead.

“People in admin should deal with admin and leave everything else.”

In spite of some poor refereeing, the 25,412 Croke Park crowd on Saturday were treated to a spectacle of a final, which Crossmaglen rightly felt they left behind them. Even though they were four points behind at the interval (0-7 to 1-8) and then five with 20 minutes to go thanks in no small part to Dessie Dolan’s excellence for Garrycastle, such was their dominance in the latter stages there looked only one winner.

With Aaron Kernan mopping up the breaks in midfield, where they had struggled badly against David O’Shaughnessy and Seánie O’Donoghue in the first-half, the Ulster champions rattled off five unanswered points to restore parity in the 49th minute.

Back Garrycastle came with a fourth free won and scored by Dolan before goalscorer Patrick Mulvihill tipped over another point.

A monster Oisín McConville free and then another from McKenna, moved to full-forward, levelled things up.

But there was still time for the reigning champions to create a fistful of scoring chances which came to nothing.

“I think if we are looking at the game from the point of view of the end of the match, it’s definitely a match we should have won,” acknowledged McEntee. “We were level with five minutes to go and surely missed five chances at the end. All we needed was composure and we probably didn’t get it. I think we owned the last 20 minutes of the match.”

Garrycastle manager Anthony Cunningham made no apologies for the manner in which his players put it up to Cross in the physical stakes.

“You have to take them on. They have fantastic players right through. You can’t go out to admire them,” he said. “The thing with Crossmaglen is they let you play as well. They have some fine, fine players. So have Garrycastle. I’m very proud of them. The team that focuses more and learns more from the drawn match in the replay is usually the team that wins. I hope that’s us.”

On the basis of Saturday, Garrycastle know they can match their esteemed opponents. Mulvihill’s 21st minute goal to put them 1-7 to 0-6 ahead was a deserving one for them, while Dolan’s efforts as the lone gunman at times up front were admirable.

But they’re going to have to do it all over again.

Scorers for Crossmaglen: O McConville 0-6 (5f); J Clarke 0-3; A Kernan (1f), T Kernan 0-2 each; M McNamee, D McKenna 0-1 each.

Scorers for Garrycastle: D Dolan 0-6 (5f); P Mulvihill 1-1; J Dolan 0-2; P Duignan, A Browne, P Dillon (1f) 0-1 each.

Subs for Crossmaglen: S Finnegan for B McKeown (inj 24); K Carragher for Brennan (29); M Aherne for McNamee (52); F Hanratty for Carragher (55).

Subs for Garrycastle: A Browne for O’Donoghue (blood, 27-ht); R McGowan for Duignan (44); Browne for G Dolan (46); A Fox for Henson (49); A Daly for Dillon (57).

Red cards: T McHugh (Garrycastle, 36, second yellow); P Kernan (Crossmaglen, 40, second yellow).

Referee: Rory Hickey (Clare).

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