Crafty Crossmaglen Rangers survive Scotstown scare

Ulster Club SFC final - Crossmaglen (Armagh) 2-17 Scotstown (Monaghan) 2-12 (AET): The nature of this game thankfully didn’t tally with the chilly conditions in which it was played. At times, it was combustible, sometimes bordering on the dangerous, but always captivating.

For over 80 minutes, the 8,694 Athletic Grounds attendance were treated to a superb spectacle that belied the rain and wind that threatened to make it a damp squib. Darren Hughes may have been on the losing team and suffered the indignity of joining his brother Kieran in being red carded but he should be anything but unbowed after giving a performance in defeat that will last long in Scotstown GAA history.

But Crossmaglen’s cuteness shone through when it was needed most to win their 11th Ulster title. It helped that Scotstown lost Kieran Hughes to a red card five minutes into injury-time for a foul that was more of the black card variety and they went into the change-around 1-13 to 1-11 up, as substitute Jamie Clarke made his class tell.

The game turned more in the favour soon after the start of the second 10-minute period. After David McKenna pointed, Crossmaglen were alert to a quick Scotstown kick-out and Clarke was on hand to lay off a chance for Kyle Carragher to put away, putting them five points ahead.

Another Crossmaglen point followed before Brian McGinnity exposed a mistake in their back-line to goal for Scotstown. However, Kernans, Tony and Aaron, each pointed late on to ensure this side added another chapter to Crossmaglen’s already heaving tome of success.

It looked to be beyond them at the end of normal time, when Rory Beggan stepped up to take a 50 metre free but it fell short. Kieran Hughes did manage to keep it in play, palming it into the penalty area, but a Cross free was called, and full-time was blown.

Crossmaglen were living dangerously for most of the second half and weren’t aided when sub Danny O’Callaghan was red carded in the 55th minute after striking James Turley, although the pair had been sparking off one another long before the incident.

Yet it was 14-man Rangers who then went ahead when Tony Kernan pointed a free after Darren Hughes was adjudged to have brought down James Morgan. But Scotstown were quickly back on level terms when Shane Carey earned and converted a free.

Making it 1-10 apiece, that’s how the sides finished after regulation time. Trailing 1-6 to 1-3 at half-time, Scotstown’s revival was guided by Darren Hughes who was excellent in moving away from his full-forward berth and giving his team a platform around midfield and the half-forward line.

Scotstown restored parity by the 46th minute when Conor McCarthy posted a fine point from an acute angle. They would go behind on two further occasions in the half but recomposed themselves each time.

The strong wind factor in Crossmaglen’s favour in the first half didn’t seem to deter Scotstown. Beggan cut through the gale with a fine 45 in the third minute. Crossmaglen responded with two points in quick succession from Michael McNamee and Stephen Kernan but their cover was exposed in the ninth minute when Morgan misjudged a long ball through from his namesake, Scotstown captain Donal, and Darren Hughes was allowed a free run in on Paul Hearty’s goal and made no mistake.

A matter of seconds later at the other end, the younger Hughes brother had to stretch to deny Crossmaglen what would surely have been an instant and equal response. However, it was Scotstown again threatening the Crossmaglen goal in the 15th minute when Orin Heaphey pointed just as it appeared another three-pointer beckoned.

Referee Barry Cassidy was just about coping in what was a tense encounter full of thrills and spills and no shortage of late challenges. Crossmaglen showed resilience in reeling off three points without reply, two of them coming from Johnny Murtagh who struggled in the opening quarter. Aaron Kernan also shrugged off what seemed a serious injury that required several minutes of medical attention (he played the remainder but was hospitalised afterwards as a precaution).

Carey’s free in the 28th minute was Scotstown’s first point in 13 minutes, putting them up once more, but the Monaghan men’s relief was short-lived as a Kieran Hughes mistake was pounced on at the other end. McNamee appeared to be fouled as he assisted Tony Kernan for a goal, the inter-county man’s left-footed finish to Beggan’s left corner a score worthy of putting Crossmaglen into the lead.

Scorers for Crossmaglen Rangers:

T Kernan (1-6, 0-5f); K Carragher (1-2); J Murtagh (0-3); M McNamee, S Kernan, C Cumiskey, D McKenna, P Studard, A Kernan (1f) (0-1 each).

Scorers for Scotstown:

S Carey (0-6, 5f); D Hughes, B McGinnity (1-0 each); C McCarthy (0-2, 1f); R Beggan (45), O Heaphey, D Morgan, E Caulfield (0-1).

CROSSMAGLEN RANGERS:

P Hearty; P McKeown, J Morgan, P Hughes; A Kernan, M Aherne, A Rushe; J Hanratty, R Kelly; S Kernan, M McNamee, T Kernan; K Carragher, J Murtagh, O O’Neill.

Subs:

D McKenna for J Hanratty (h-t); S Finnegan for A Rushe (37); J Clarke for O O’Neill (40); C Cumiskey for R Kelly (45); D O’Callaghan for M Aherne (51); A Cunningham for M McNamee (54); G Carragher for Cunningham, P Studard for O’Callaghan (both f-t); K Brennan for J Murtagh (ht, et); D McConville for S Kernan (75); Cunningham for Carragher (76).

Red card:

D O’Callaghan (straight, 55), J Morgan (second yellow, 80+2).

SCOTSTOWN:

R Beggan; M Duffy, K Hughes, P Keenan; E Caulfield, D McArdle, F McPhillips; F Caulfield, J Turley; D Morgan, S Carey, R McKenna; C McCarthy, D Hughes, O Heaphey.

Subs:

B Boylan for F McPhillips (30+1); D McCague for R McKenna (43); B McGinnity for O Heaphey (49); B McMeel for E Caulfield (76); D McNally for D McArdle (79).

Red cards:

K Hughes (straight, 65); D Hughes (straight, 80+2).

Referee:

B Cassidy (Derry)



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