But hardly had referee Stephen Murray sounded the final whistle in this often fractious confrontation at the Morgan Athletic Grounds than Rangers manager Tony McEntee was flashing a warning message.
“We will have to improve. We are delighted to have got over this match considering that we were playing against good opposition. We are getting some of our injured players back all the time but there are areas of our game that we have to work on,” stated McEntee.
His side may not have blossomed en route to yesterday’s decider but their imperious finishing, sustained work ethic and defensive resilience, particularly in the second-half, proved too much for their opponents.
Ahead by 1-1 with just over a minute gone after Johnny Hanratty had powered over a long-range point and Jamie Clarke had swept home a trademark goal, a straightforward day at the office looked in prospect for the champions.
Marc Cullen (2) and Conor Clarke, though, pounced for points to remind the Rangers that their opponents had no intention of lobbing in the towel.
While Clarke’s predatory instincts saw him poach a 12th minute point before Oisin McConville piloted over an 18th minute free, a series of sharp counter-thrusts by the challengers culminated in Paul Duffy swinging over spectacular points in the 28th and 29th minutes that propelled them into the lead for the first time.
But it was a short-lived advantage. In injury-time, Crossmaglen mounted a sustained assault before Tony Kernan flicked to the net for a 2-3 to 0-7 interval lead.
And it was Rangers who were to prove the major force in the second-half. After the three Kernan brothers — Aaron, Stephen and Tony — had landed points, it was the ubiquitous Clarke who sealed a fine victory when he whipped in a 53rd minute goal.
Scorers for Crossmaglen Rangers: J Clarke (2-2), T Kernan (1-1), A Kernan (0-2, 0-1 free), O McConville (0-2, 0-1 free), J Hanratty, S Kernan ()-1 each).
Scorers for Pearse Og: M Cullen (0-5, 0-3 frees), P Duffy (0-2), A Mallon, C Clarke, T Turley, A Duffy (0-1 each).
CROSSMAGLEN RANGERS: P Hearty; P Hughes, J Morgan, P McKeown; A Kernan, B McKeown, M Aherne; D McKenna, J Hanratty; K Carragher, O McConville, T Kernan; J Clarke, A Cunningham, K Brennan.
Subs: S Kernan for Brennan (29); S Finnegan for McKeown (45), C Comiskey for K Carragher (55), G Carragher for McConville (57), M Boyce for Hanratty (59).
Yellow cards: A Kernan (7), K Carragher (14), T Kernan (26), Ahern (50).
PEARSE OG: C McKinney; S Gribben, G Barton, G McCoy; P Duffy, A Mallon, D Parkinson; C Rafferty, J P Donnelly; A Duffy, C Clarke, S Clarke T Turley, K Hughes, M Cullen.
Subs: S Moore for Hughes (36), S Hughes for Carson (39), S Gribben for McCoy (59). Yellow card: Donnelly (5).
Referee: Stephen Murray (Whitecross).