Ulster club SFC: Cross retain crown

December 14, 2008

Crossmaglen Rangers' Tony McEntee powers past James Bateson of Ballinderry in the replayed Ulster club SFC final at Enniskillen
By Cóilín Duffy Crossmaglen Rangers (Armagh) 0-12 Ballinderry Shamrocks (Derry) 1-4 The future for Crossmaglen Rangers is bright after the Armagh outfit secured their seventh Ulster Club SFC success at Brewster Park, Enniskillen on Sunday following a five-point win over Ballinderry Shamrocks. Like any good wine 'Cross' have matured with age and with veteran player Oisin McConville top-scoring with five points, the 33 year-old's efforts proved to be the difference between the sides at the finish. Ballinderry Shamrocks were dealt a major blow before the game with the news that their captain Enda Muldoon had injured his metatarsal in a work related accident on Friday. And Shamrocks began this game sluggishly on the score-sheet as the reigning champions raced into a 0-4 to 0-1 lead, although the Derry side had placed strong pressure on the Crossmaglen defence during the opening half. It was a determined fourth-quarter display which sealed victory for Crossmaglen, despite Shamrocks wiping out a Rangers five-point lead to level six minutes into the second half. As they had done in the drawn encounter two weeks previously, Crossmaglen began this game in determined fashion and were fully deserving of their three-point half-time cushion, with McConville kicking two first half points. Despite McConville's scoring brilliance, the first half was riddled with missed opportunities as defences got on top. Shamrocks were particularly guilty of failing to capitalise on scoring opportunities, as the Derry champions could only manage a Conleith Gilligan 10th minute point for all of their first half efforts. Gilligan, Michael Bell, Colin Devlin and Darren Conway were among those guilty of missing scoring opportunities in the first half but Crossmaglen's defence stood firm with man of the match Paul Kernan giving a sterling performance throughout at full-back. Scores from Michael McNamee and McConville propelled Crossmaglen to a three-point half-time advantage following a first half dominated by indiscipline and poor football. Referee Brian Crowe and his linesmen were in constant communication and this came to the fore in the 22nd minute, with three yellow cards produced as Crossmaglen brothers Stephen and Aaron Kernan along with Ballinderry's Raymond Wilkinson all entered the referees notebook. It was a combination of experience and youth which powered Crossmaglen to a five-point lead within two minutes of the restart as veteran McConville slotted over his third point, which was quickly followed with an excellent score from the youthful Paul McKeown. But Ballinderry quickly kept tabs on Crossmaglen's advances as scores from Gilligan and midfielder James Conway edged the Derry champions within a goal of their opponents. That vital three-pointer quickly followed as James Bateson's 36th minute goal levelled the contest for the first time. But despite the strong efforts of the half-time substitute this was as close as his side would get to a first Ulster glory since 2001 with Crossmaglen exerting dominance once again in the final quarter. Rangers outscored their opponents by 0-4 to 0-1 during the last 15 minutes, with a brace of those scores coming from McConville including a 60th minute penalty strike, which he opted to slot over the crossbar to secure a five-point win and a first three-in-a-row since the 1980's. Crossmaglen Rangers - P Hearty; P McKeown (0-1), P Kernan, B McKeown; A Kernan (0-1, 1f), F Bellew, J Donaldson; T McEntee, D McKenna; S Kernan, J McEntee, M McNamee (0-2); J Clarke (0-1), O McConville (0-5, 2f 1pen), J Murtagh (0-1). Subs: T Kernan for S Kernan (42); K Carragher (0-1) for Clarke (51); J Hanratty for Murtagh (55) Ballinderry Shamrocks - M Conlon; D Bell, N McCusker, C Wilkinson; K McGuckin, R McGuckin, M Bell; J Conway (0-1), K M McGuckin; D Conway, C Gilligan (0-2, 1f), R Wilkinson; C Devlin, B McGuckin, M Harney (0-1). Subs: J Bateson (1-0) for B McGuckin (HT); S Rocks for K M McGuckin (Blood sub 45-48); P Wilson for D Bell (53); R Scott for Kevin M McGuckin (56) Referee - Brian Crowe (Cavan)

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