Kilcoo dig deep to end Crossmaglen’s reign as kings of Ulster

Down champions bring epic run to an end

Crossmaglen’s Stephen Kernan elbows Kilcoo’s Conor Laverty and gets sent off for the challenge in the sides’ Ulster club SFC quarter-final replay. Photograph:  Jonathan Porter/Inpho/Presseye

Crossmaglen’s Stephen Kernan elbows Kilcoo’s Conor Laverty and gets sent off for the challenge in the sides’ Ulster club SFC quarter-final replay. Photograph: Jonathan Porter/Inpho/Presseye


Kilcoo 3-10 Crossmaglen 1-8: It took 160 minutes to separate them, and two goals in the first-half of extra-time helped Kilcoo finally defeat club giants Crossmaglen in yesterday’s Ulster club quarter-final replay.

Kilcoo probably should have won last week’s drawn match and they blew another great opportunity to win this game in normal time when they led by 1-7 to 0-3 with 20 minutes to go.

Despite losing seven players from last year’s side, depleted Crossmaglen are nothing if not fighters. They somehow clawed their way back with an unanswered 1-4, with Kilcoo down to 14 men after a straight red for Daryl Branagan in the 42nd minute, to level the game at 1-7 apiece.

Kyle Carragher briefly gave Cross the lead 19 seconds into extra-time – the first and only time they led in the match.

However Kilcoo responded with two killer goals, from Ryan Johnston in the third minute, and a screamer from Paul Devlin five minutes later. Conor Laverty had a hand in both goals. There was no coming back from that for Cross, chasing a fourth Ulster title in a row, who suffered their first defeat in Ulster since 2005.

It all unravelled for them, with a straight red card for Stephen Kernan in extra-time followed by a second yellow for Paul McKeown as they ended the game with 13 men.

“We carried injured men into the match and the boys couldn’t give any more,” said Cross manager Joe Kernan.

“We didn’t help ourselves. Our use of the ball was very poor but we drew level and that’s when we should have finished them off, we had a few chances right at the end of normal time. The two goals were a killer blow and we had emptied the tank. We hurt when we lose, and the only thing I can guarantee is that Cross will be back here this time next year.”

The anticipation of a high quality, combative contest for the second week running helped attract an attendance of 9,670 - a record for an Ulster club championship match.

Kilcoo made all the running for the first 40 minutes, wing-backs Darragh O’Hanlon and Gerard McEvoy constantly finding space and Conor Laverty’s pace troubling Paul McKeown. Kilcoo were two points up after six minutes and Crossmaglen, whose use of the ball coming out of defence was terrible, didn’t score until a Tony Kernan free after 12 minutes.

Kyle Carragher and Kyle Brennan struggled to make an impact, while Kilcoo’s Darragh O’Hanlon and Ryan Johnston were impressive ball carriers. Scores were at a premium, and Cross failed to score from play at all in the first-half as Kilcoo led 0-5 to 0-2 at half-time.

Paul Devlin slotted home a penalty, after Stephen Kernan fouled Laverty, in the 38th minute. However Daryl Branagan’s straight red card for a high challenge on Stephen Kernan almost cost Kilcoo dearly.

They were seven points up when he went off and didn’t score again as Cross put in a Trojan effort to draw level. Tony Kernan’s move into full-forward sparked the fightback and his goal in the 52nd minute helped Cross level it up at 1-7 apiece after the hour’s play.

“We lost our way in the second-half and got embroiled with them and they got a lucky goal at the end of normal time,” said Kilcoo boss Jim McCorry.

“But we played a wee bit of football in extra-time . . . but the bottom line is that we’ve only won one game and we have a short recovery time to get our wounded players ready for Ballinderry next Sunday.”

KILCOO: S Kane; N Branagan, N McEvoy (0-1), D Branagan; D O’Hanlon (0-4, 0-3f), S O’Hanlon, Gerard McEvoy (0-1); P Greenan, A Branagan; P Devlin (2-2, 1-0 pen), J McClean (0-1), R Johnston (1-1); N Morgan, C Laverty, Gary McEvoy. Subs: S Devlin for Gary McEvoy (54 mins), J Johnston for Morgan (54 mins); F McGreevy for J Johnston (79 mins).
CROSSMAGLEN: P Hearty; P Hughes, P McKeown, S Finnegan; M Aherne (0-1), G Carragher, D O’Callaghan; J Hanratty, T Kernan (1-3, 0-3f); M McNamee, S Kernan, C Cumiskey (0-2); K Brennan, K Carragher (0-1), C O’Neill. Subs: P Óg Grant for McNamee (35 mins), M Boyce for O’Neill (35 mins), A Cunningham (0-1) for K Brennan (47 mins), K McShane for Hanratty (79 mins).
Referee: Joe McQuillan (Cavan)