The Armagh defender sat out yesterday’s bad-tempered Ulster club quarter-final tie with Kilcoo in Newry, which finished in a draw after extra-time, and has been ruled out for two months.
The Armagh and Down champions could not be separated after 80 minutes of a hard-hitting contest brimming with aggression and featured a number of scuffles on the pitch and in the stand.
Kilcoo made most of the running in normal time but still needed a monster 50m free from Darragh O’Hanlon in the 81st minute of the game to snatch an equaliser.
“The last free, I don’t know why it was brought up,” said Joe Kernan, who hopes to have Aaron Cunningham back from injury for the replay. “Our player had his back to the ball walking away and he moved it up. Some of the refereeing decisions were very poor today but we get on with it and the next day we’ll be ready for battle again.”
Kernan has called on the Ulster Council to stage the replay in Crossmaglen — not the Athletic Grounds — as it is a designated county ground. However Kilcoo manager Jim McCorry hit back: “I expect the Ulster Council to do the sensible thing and play the game at (Armagh’s) number one county ground.”
Kilcoo led 1-3 to no score after 16 minutes, Ryan Johnson palming the ball into the net after 11 minutes.
Tony Kernan, who had a superb game, got the opening score for the four-in-a-row chasing Ulster champions in the 21st minute with a free. His brother Stephen hit a crucial point from play which rescued a bleak situation for Crossmaglen, to reduce the deficit to 1-3 to 0-3 at half-time.
Cross had a good spell in the third quarter, with Kilcoo failing to score for 27 minutes either side of half-time. Cross narrowed the gap to a point, but two points from Paul Devlin put Kilcoo back on top. Kilcoo were still four points ahead with five minutes remaining and looking like causing a shock, before Stephen Kernan capitalised on a defensive blunder to score a goal for Cross in the 56th minute.
A point from Martin Aherne forced extra-time as the sides finished level on 1-7 apiece.
Crossmaglen took the lead for the first time in the game through a free from Tony Kernan seven minutes into extra-time. Almost immediately, Kilcoo reasserted their dominance when Paul Greenan beat Paul Hearty to a high ball and fisted to the net.
Kyle Brennan responded brilliantly to being taken off in normal time, and came back on in the extra-time period to score two points within a minute of each other, as Cross shrugged off the blow of conceding the goal.
There was still nothing between the teams at half-time in extra-time (1-10 to 2-7).
Johnny Hanratty and Tony Kernan put Cross ahead again and it looked like they had weathered the storm.
Paul Greenan hit the side-netting with an easy goal chance for Kilcoo in the second period of extra-time, but they still converted two late frees, including the monster effort from O’Hanlon, to set up a replay next week.
KILCOO: S Kane; N Branagan, N McEvoy, D Branagan; D O’Hanlon (0-4, 3f), S O’Hanlon, Gerard McEvoy (0-1); P Greenan (1-0), Aidan Branagan; P Devlin (0-3, 1f), A Devlin, R Johnston (1-1); J Johnston, C Laverty, Gary McEvoy.
Subs: F McGreevy for J Johnston (24), Aaron Branagan for A Devlin (39), J McClean for McGreevy (39), Sean Devlin for Gary McEvoy (52), Seamus Devlin for Aaron Branagan (70), M Devlin for R Johnston (76), N Morgan for M Devlin (80).
CROSSMAGLEN RANGERS: P Hearty; P Hughes, P McKeown, S Finnegan; M Aherne (0-1), G Carragher, D O’Callaghan; J Hanratty (0-1), S Kernan (1-1); P Og Grant, T Kernan (0-6, 6f), M McNamee; K Brennan, K Carragher, C Cumiskey (0-1).
Subs: D McKenna for Brennan (43), C O’Neill for McNamee (53), M Boyce for Cumiskey (56), K Brennan (0-2) for Grant (66).
Referee: Barry Cassidy (Derry).