Crossmaglen capture Ulster club title

A five-point haul from Oisin McConville was the difference as Crossmaglen Rangers secured their seventh Ulster Club SFC title at Brewster Park in Enniskillen today.



A five-point haul from Oisin McConville was the difference as Crossmaglen Rangers secured their seventh Ulster Club SFC title at Brewster Park in Enniskillen today.

In a game which threatened to spill over at times, referee Brian Crowe and his officials kept a stern handle on matters with the Cavan man issuing five yellow cards during the hour.

The first half of this final replay was less than memorable with Rangers holding a 0-04 to 0-01 interval lead and both defences very much on top.

Although Crossmaglen led by two points early on thanks to scores from Jamie Clarke and McConville, it was soon the Armagh champions' turn to come under pressure in defence as Ballinderry launched attack after attack.

But despite the efforts of Colin Devlin, Conleith Gilligan and Darren Conway, Shamrocks only had a point to show from a five-minute period of dominance, with Gilligan slotting over from the tightest of angles.

A powerful Michael McNamee effort propelled Crossmaglen into a 0-03 to 0-01 lead after 11 minutes, but amazingly just one further point was produced before the interval, with McConville firing over his second pointed free in the 29th minute.

Seven minutes previously, referee Crowe issued a flurry of yellow cards with brothers Aaron and Stephen Kernan both entering the notebook. Ballinderry's Raymond Wilkinson also saw yellow following an incident in centre-field.

Tempers flared again as the players went in for half-time, as personnel from both camps were seen clashing in the tunnel with a number of punches thrown.

After a dismal opening half and that unsavoury incident, both sides greatly improved their general play on the restart and let their football do the talking.

Crossmaglen Rangers continued to show glimpses of their outstanding football pedigree. A brace of points opened the second half on a positive note for them.

It was a combination of experience and youth as veteran McConville mustered his third point, which was quickly followed with an excellent score from youngster Paul McKeown.

But just as Crossmaglen raced into a five-point lead, Ballinderry, who were without the injured Enda Muldoon, found an extra gear with the carrot of a first Ulster crown since 2001 dangling in front of them.

Scores from Gilligan and midfielder James Conway edged the Derry champions within a goal of their opponents, before half-time substitute James Bateson broke through the Rangers defence to crack home the game's only goal.

Bateson's 36th-minute strike levelled the contest for the first time, but his side would only score one point in the remainder of the game - a Martin Harney effort after 49 minutes.

Crossmaglen came to the fore again over the closing quarter-hour with McConville giving a talismanic display up front. He could even afford to knock an injury-time penalty over the bar, after substitute Kyle Carragher had been fouled.

So a seventh Ulster championship success and a first ever three-in-a-row of provincial titles for the Armagh kingpins, after their final wins over Ballinderry (2006) and St. Gall's of Antrim (2007) in the previous years.

After the game, Crossmaglen captain John Donaldson accepted the cup from Ulster Council President Tom Daly.

For Donal Murtagh's men, this afternoon's triumph sets up an All-Ireland semi-final clash with recently-crowned Munster champions Drom-Broadford at Longford on Saturday, February 21.

CROSSMAGLEN RANGERS: P Hearty; P McKeown (0-01), P Kernan, B McKeown; A Kernan (0-01, 0-01f), F Bellew, J Donaldson; T McEntee, D McKenna; S Kernan, J McEntee, M McNamee (0-02); J Clarke (0-01), O McConville (0-05, 0-02f 0-01 pen), J Murtagh (0-01).

Subs used: T Kernan for S Kernan (42 mins), K Carragher (0-01) for Clarke (51), J Hanratty for Murtagh (55).

BALLINDERRY SHAMROCKS: M Conlon; D Bell, N McCusker, C Wilkinson; K McGuckin, R McGuckin, M Bell; J Conway (0-01), KM McGuckin; D Conway, C Gilligan (0-02, 0-01f), R Wilkinson; C Devlin, B McGuckin, M Harney (0-01).

Subs used: J Bateson (1-00) for B McGuckin (half-time), S Rocks for K M McGuckin (45-48 mins, blood sub), P Wilson for D Bell (53), R Scott for KM McGuckin (56).

Referee: Brian Crowe (Cavan)

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