Ulster Club SFC final ends in stalemate

BALLINDERRY SHAMROCKS (Derry) 1-10 CROSSMAGLEN RANGERS (Armagh) 1-10, Brewster Park

BALLINDERRY SHAMROCKS (Derry) 1-10 CROSSMAGLEN RANGERS (Armagh) 1-10, Brewster Park

Crossmaglen Rangers and Ballinderry Shamrocks will have to meet again after today's Ulster Club SFC final ended in a draw at Brewster Park.

Defending champions Cross, who have incredibly not lost a final since 1982, were denied victory by a late goal from Niall McCusker.

Oisin McConville netted with eight minutes remaining, but two Colin Devlin points and McCusker's strike ensured a draw.

Cross led 0-06 to 0-04 at half-time with Ballinderry's Conor Wilkinson sent-off. The Armagh side had Michael McNamee and John McEntee dismissed in the second half.

In what was an ill-tempered game at times, matters became heated early on when Conor Wilkinson and Aaron Kernan were both yellow carded after a poorly-timed challenge by Wilkinson on Oisin McConville.

Cross fell behind to a Darren Conway point but soon got up a head of steam with Aaron Kernan, McConville, Stephen Kernan and Tony Kernan all on target.

Stephen Kernan missed an early goal chance, hitting a low effort off a post, and Ballinderry enjoyed a much-needed purple patch towards the end of the first half.

Trailing by 0-05 to 0-01, Martin McKindless' charges ended a barren spell with a skyscraper point from captain Enda Muldoon.

Colin Devlin cut the gap with a well-taken score but a foul by Wilkinson saw Aaron Kernan hand Crossmaglen a two-point interval lead.

An off-the-ball skirmish, just moments later, led to Wilkinson being booked for the second time after a clash with Tony Kernan.

But Ballinderry managed to mount an injury-time attack which led to Devlin tagging on a free for a 0-06 to 0-04 deficit.

Taking centre stage on the restart, Michael McNamee picked off two excellent points, the second from close to the sideline, to move Crossmaglen into a double scores lead.

Conleith Gilligan replied from distance for Ballinderry and their chances of winning improved in the 40th minute when McNamee got his marching orders for an incident involving Ballinderry substitute Michael Bell.

Cross' lead was down to a single point three minutes later when Devlin bisected the posts again and with Muldoon beginning to pull the strings up front, James Conway tagged on point from close range.

Substitute John Murtagh then pointed for the Armagh men before Devlin, who scored 0-06 in all, responded at the other end.

A David McKenna score kept Cross ticking and then McConville swept through for what looked to be the match-winning goal.

After a rare error from Kevin McGuckin, McConville found enough space to knock the ball past goalkeeper Michael Conlon.

The goal put Cross 1-10 to 0-08 ahead but they suffered an immediate setback as in the next phase of play, John McEntee was given a straight red card for an apparent elbow on the onrushing Muldoon.

Devlin fired over the resulting free and repeated that feat to whittle the lead down to three points with as many minutes remaining.

The Derry champions were suddenly level in the 59th minute when McCusker netted on the rebound, after a Conway shot had been partially blocked by goalkeeper Paul Hearty.

Subsequent point attempts were missed at both ends of the pitch as the sides had to settle for a replay, which will take place at the same venue in Enniskillen next Sunday.

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