Crossmaglen are back in the Ulster final

Armagh champions beat Kilcoo to go into a first provincial final in three years

Kilcoo’s Conor Laverty with Crossmaglen Rangers’ Stephen Kernan. Photograph: Inpho

Kilcoo’s Conor Laverty with Crossmaglen Rangers’ Stephen Kernan. Photograph: Inpho

 

Crossmaglen 0-12 Kilcoo 0-8

There was none of the anticipated drama, but a strong third quarter from Crossmaglen booked their place in the Ulster club SFC final for the first time since 2012.

A three-year absence from the final of a competition they’ve won 10 times in the last two decades represents a serious drought for Cross, and they rose above any petty squabbles or domestic disputes with their Down rivals to secure safe passage to a decider against Scotstown in two weeks time.

An attendance of 9,591 turned up to Pairc Esler on Sunday expecting fireworks after explosive battles between these teams in 2012 and 2013.

The first half, however, was a damp squib with Kilcoo leading by 0-3 to 0-1 after 19 minutes before Cross responded to draw level at three points each at the break.

It was forgettable stuff early on. Kilcoo set up very defensively and Cross were reduced to taking pot shots, their frustration leading to nine first-half wides including some over-hit passes.

The six-time All-Ireland champions effectively won the game with five unanswered points in 13 minutes after the break.

Oisin O’Neill set the tone with a superb effort from a difficult angle within seconds of the restart to put them ahead for the first time, and Tony and Aaron Kernan frees stretched them clear.

Daylight was appearing between them and Rico Kelly could have settled it with a goal but his shot came off the butt of the post in the 38th minute.

Kilcoo offered little offensively and were wiped out in midfield, and went 27 minutes without scoring either side of the break.

Darragh O’Hanlon’s point left them 0-8 to 0-4 behind but having expended so much energy into their defensive system, they tired as the game wore on.

Crossmaglen joint-manager John McEntee knew gaps would appear if they stayed patient.

“We knew they were going to bring serious intensity and sort of figured they could only keep that up for so long.

“We kept our composure and felt if we corrected the mistakes of the first half and kept our intensity up theirs would fade a bit.”

The wides of the first half dried up (they only hit one in the second period) and Tony Kernan’s difficult free plus Aaron Kernan’s fisted point put them 0-10 to 0-5 ahead with ten minutes to go.

Kilcoo were reduced to 14 men when substitute Dominic McEvoy received a second yellow card in the 53rd minute, 18 minutes after being introduced.

Jamie Clarke, recently returned from America, came on for the last four minutes, his first appearance since the first round of the Armagh championship in May.

Crossmaglen: P Hearty; P Hughes (0-1), A Rushe, P McKeown; A Kernan (0-3, 2f), M Aherne, J Morgan; J Hanratty, A Cunningham; M McNamee, S Kernan, T Kernan (0-3, 3f); O O’Neill (0-1), R Kelly (0-1), K Carragher (0-3)

Subs: K Brennan for O’Neill (48), J Murtagh for Cunningham (50), J Clarke for McNamee (56), S Finnegan for Rushe (BC, 58), C Cumiskey for Carragher (60)

Kilcoo: S Kane; N Branagan, Aidan Branagan, D Branagan; Aaron Branagan, D O’Hanlon (0-5, 4f), R Johnston (0-1); F McGreevy, J McClean; A Morgan, P Devlin, D Ward; J Johnston (0-1, f), P Greenan, C Laverty

Subs: M Devlin (0-1) for P Devlin (24), D McEvoy for McGreevy (35), S O’Hanlon for McClean (46), Gerard McEvoy for Ward (56), Gary McEvoy for Morgan (58)

Referee: Noel Mooney (Cavan)

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