Omagh (Tyrone) 2-8 Crossmaglen (Armagh) 1-9
Omagh caused a sensation in their first appearance in the Ulster Club senior football championship in 26 years, toppling title favourites Crossmaglen at Omagh.
Seven points behind at one stage, the Tyrone men came storming back in the second half, assisted by two Cross dismissals and a master-class of finishing from Ronan O’Neill.
O’Neill hit 1-4, but it was centre-back Barry Tierney who punched home the vital goal ten minutes from the end.
“Seven points down early in the second half but we knew not to give up because we had done it throughout the Tyrone championship,” said O’Neill. If we don’t go on from now, having beaten Crossmaglen, the victory will mean nothing.
“It’s only one step to the next phase and we will look forward to seeing who we’re playing next. We are relishing this Ulster campaign so bring it on.”
O’Neill triumphed in his clash with one of the finest man-markers in the game, Armagh star James Morgan.
“I was told coming into the game he was one of the best man markers in Ulster but I had belief that if the right ball came in I could do damage and thankfully it worked out.
“I had studied James Morgan and knew if the ball came in I could turn him quickly, one side of the goals was lying wide open and I couldn’t believe it. I stuck it away.”
Crossmaglen established a commanding platform at midfield through Johnny Hanratty and Rico Kelly, and with high quality kick passing, they were able to put the Omagh defence under heavy pressure.
They comfortably overcame the handicap of conceding an early goal to Ronan O’Neill, who skipped past marker James Morgan to plant the ball in the net past Paul Hearty.
Jamie Clarke and Tony Kernan, along with Johnny Murtagh and Kyle Brennan, nailed points for the Rangers as they built up a 0-8 to 1-1 advantage.
And they almost had a goal when Brennan sent Murtagh through, but his shot was superbly saved by Ryan Clarke.
The Armagh men did get the goal they had threatened in the 29th minute, Pádraig Stuttard smashing the ball past Clarke from Stephen Finnegan’s pass.
Jason McAnulla responded with Omagh’s first point from play, but it was the Rangers who led by 1-8 to 1-2 at the interval.
However, a series of significant events, allied to a now customary Omagh flourish, swung the game in dramatic fashion in the final quarter.
Kyle Brennan’s 32nd minute point proved to be Crossmaglen’s final score.
The opening ten minutes of the second half featured a series of skirmishes which prompted referee Ciaran Branagan to issue a handful of yellow cards.
Joe McMahon and Conan Grugan seized control of the central battle, and with Conor Meyler and Aaron Grugan picking up broken possession and carrying the fight to the Armagh men, Omagh were on the rise even before Callum Comiskey, already booked, was black-carded on 48 minutes.
Worse was to follow for the 10-time Ulster champions. Centre back Barry Tierney made a lung-busting run to get on the end of Conor O’Donnell’s cross and punch to the net.
Tony Kernan’s red card reduced Cross to 13 men with ten minutes to play, and the Rangers were hanging by a thread.
Conan Grugan brought them level, and it was O’Neill who gave St Enda’s the lead for the first time on 57 minutes, before sealing it in stoppage time.
Scorers for Omagh: R O’Neill 1-4 (0-1f), B Tierney 1-0, C Grugan 0-2 (1f), C O’Donnell, J McAnulla 0-1 each.
Scorers for Crossmaglen: P Stuttard 1-0, T Kernan 0-3 (3f), K Brennan, J Clarke (1f) 0-2 each, M Aherne, J Murtagh 0-1 each.
OMAGH: R Clarke, H Gallagher, Justin McMahon, S Mullan, C McLaughlin, B Tierney, C McMahon, Joe McMahon, C Grugan, A Grugan, J McAnulla, C McCarron, C O’Donnell, R O’Neill, C Meyler.
Subs: C O’Neill for McCarron (h-t), J Colton for C McMahon ((56), D Kerr for McLaughlin (60).
CROSSMAGLEN: P Hearty, S Finnegan, J Morgan, P Hughes, P Stuttard, P McKeown, M Aherne, J Hanratty, R Kelly, T Kernan, J Clarke, M McNamee, K Carragher, C Cumiskey, K Brennan.
Subs: J Murtagh for Carragher (5), D McKenna for Brennan (43), A Kernan for Finnegan (48), A Cunningham for Hanratty (59).
Referee: C Branagan (Down).
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