Crossmaglen take SFC title after hard-fought tie

Crossmaglen Rangers 2-11 St. Brigid's 1-11

Crossmaglen Rangers 2-11 St. Brigid's 1-11

Jamie Clarke's 39th-minute goal proved to be the difference as Crossmaglen Rangers claimed their fifth All-Ireland Club SFC crown.

The sides were tied on six occasions at Croke Park, including five times in the opening half. A Senan Kilbride point had St. Brigid's 1-06 to 1-05 ahead at half-time.

Clarke's goal nudged Crossmaglen ahead on the turnaround and they pushed on for victory despite the best efforts of Kilbride (0-08).

Both sides began this contest at lightning pace. In their first appearance in a Croke Park decider, St. Brigid's were keen to hit the ground running.

But Clarke struck the opening point after two minutes, splitting the posts with a right-footed effort from the edge of the semi circle.

Scorer-in-chief Kilbride got Brigid's off the mark with a pointed free in the fourth minute, before Crossmaglen regained the lead thanks to a second Clarke score.

Although Brigid's strung together quick-fire points from Kilbride and Cathal McHugh, Crossmaglen steadied the ship with Aaron Kernan and Oisin McConville both on target.

Kilbride slotted his third point from as shots in the 16th minute to tie the game at 0-04 apiece. However, Brigids's were dealt a major blow when a hamstring injury forced off half-forward Cathal McHugh.

Crossmaglen immediately capitalised with McConville kicking his second point and shortly afterwards, the first goal of the hour fell the South Armagh side's way.

David McKenna did brilliantly to field a ball in from Clarke and it was fed through to the onrushing Aaron Cunningham who beat Brigid's goalkeeper Philip Martin with a superb finish.

It was a bitter blow for Brigid's, but they immediately raised their game and within two minutes had the ball in the back of the Crossmaglen net. Goalkeeper Paul Hearty kept out the initial shot but an unmarked Eoin Sheehy was able to force the ball home.

With their confidence boosted by that score, the Roscommon outfit added a point through Kilbride to square things up at 1-05 apiece with less than five minutes remaining before the break.

Crossmaglen went in search of scores but to no avail - there were missed chances for brothers Aaron and Stephen Kernan - and Kilbride's fifth point gave Brigid's a lead to take into the second period.

Frankie Dolan extended Brigid's advantage on the restart with his only score of the game, but a pass to Sheehy may have led to a goal. Crossmaglen quickly settled as scores from McConville and Clarke tied the game for the sixth time after 38 minutes.

Just moments later, Clarke pounced for Crossmaglen's second goal. A high ball into the square was broken down expertedly by Stephen Kernan and Clarke found the net with a well-placed shot past Martin.

The intensity increased as Darren Dolan brought down Stephen Finnegan following a charging run from the Crossmaglen defender. McConville landed the resulting free to open up a four-point lead for the first time.

Brigid's showed their doggedness as the excellent Kilbride offered an immediate response and both he and Karol Mannion added further scores to leave it at 2-09 to 1-10 with less than 10 minutes remaining.

Despite McKenna impressing under the high ball, Kilbride continued to prove dangerous for Brigid's and a lot of late breaks went their way.

However, some poor shooting late on proved costly for Brigid's with misses for both Kilbride and Frankie Dolan.

It was left to Crossmaglen to break up field and set up substitute Kyle Carragher for a fisted final point and the final whistle sparked wild celebrations for Tony McEntee's team and their supporters.

CROSSMAGLEN RANGERS: P Hearty; P McKeown, P Kernan, J Morgan; A Kernan (0-01, 0-01f), D O'Callaghan, S Finnegan; J Hanratty, D McKenna; J Clarke (1-03), S Kernan, F Hanratty; T Kernan, A Cunningham (1-00), O McConville (0-06, 0-05f).

Subs used: J McEntee for Hanratty (28 mins), M McNamee for Clarke (40), M Aherne for T Kernan (48), K Carragher (0-01) for Finnegan (53), F Bellew for S Kernan (60).

ST BRIGID'S: P Martin; R Kelly, D Donnelly, D Sheehy; I Kilbride, P Domican, G Cunniffe; G Dolan, K Mannion (0-01); E Sheehy (1-00), Cathal McHugh (0-01), Darren Dolan; Conor McHugh, S Kilbride (0-08, 0-06f), F Dolan (0-01).

Subs used: J Tiernan for Cathal McHugh (20 mins), D Kelleher for Conor McHugh (51), J Tiernan for O'Connor (58).

Referee: Cormac Reilly (Meath)

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