All-Ireland club SFC final: Cross' capture fifth title

March 17, 2011

Garvan Dolan and Darren Dolan of St Brigid's contest possession with Johnny Hanratty and David McKenna of Crossmaglen Rangers during the AIB All-Ireland club SGC final at Croke Park ©INPHO/Donall Farmer
Mighty Crossmaglen Rangers have won the All-Ireland senior club football championship for an astonishing fifth time.

The 38-times Armagh champions reclaimed the Andy Merrigan Cup with a battling 2-11 to 1-11 Croke Park victory over a gallant St Brigid's, Roscommon outfit, who were inspired by outstanding full forward Senan Kilbride.

Man of the Match Jamie Clarke despatched the clinching goal into the bottom left corner of the net nine miinutes into the second half.

Kilbride knocked over five first-half points - including four frees - to help the underdogs to a 1-6 to 1-5 interval advantage. Crossmaglen looked good when Aaron Cunningham goaled in the 23rd minute to make it 1-5 to 0-4, but the Roscommon men finished the half strongly with an unanswered 1-2 salvo, the goal coming from Eoin Sheehy.

Oisin McConville and Darren Dolan had early wides at either end but Clarke was more accurate as he clipped Crossmaglen into the lead with a point on two minutes. Kilbride levelled it with a left-footed free from the hands in front of the posts. The stage was already set for a shoot-out between these two...

Cunningham registered a Cross' wide after Stephen Kernan had set him up, latching impressively onto David McKenna's long-range delivery. Clarke's second point bounced off the top of the crossbar before going over and Kilbride missed the target off his weaker right foot.

St Brigid's won another free in front of the posts and Kilbride again obliged with a routine finish to tie the scores up with eight minutes played: 0-2 each. The Roscommon representatives went ahead for the first a minute later when Cathal McHugh's looping effort dipped over the bar with Paul Hearty scampering.

Aaron Kernan made it 0-3 each from a free after McConville had the fabric of his beloved black-and-amber jersey tested. Corner man McConville followed up with a trademark point for the Ulster giants: 0-4 to 0-3 at the end of the first quarter.

The Crossmaglen defence was penalised again, with Kilbride tapping over the free into The Hill from the right wing. McConville sent a free wide and a great battle was starting to develop between Kilbride and Crossmaglen full back Paul Kernan.

When Johnny Hanratty raided forward from midfield, he drew a foul and this time McConville made no mistake: 0-5 to 0-4 with 22 minutes played. A minute earlier, St Brigid's suffered a major blow when they lost forty yards man McHugh to an ankle injury.

In the 23rd minute, Cross' pounced for a goal. McKenna gathered a high Clarke ball and picked out full forward Cunningham, who took the opposing goalkeeper by surprise with a first-time shot, which flew down the middle of the goal. Unstoppable!

The response from the Rsocommon men came within 90 seconds and was superb: Eoin Sheehy was released in behind the Cross' defence and found himself in a one-on-one with Hearty. The big Armagh stopper made the save but Sheehy gathered the rebound and slotted into an empty net. Game On!

Kilbride kicked the equalising point on the turn in the 25th minute: 1-5 each and Crossmaglen's four-point cushion was gone. Aaron Kernan hit a shot wide off his right foot and the Armagh champions introduced veteran John McEntee for Francis Hanratty with two minutes remaining before the short whistle.

But Kilbride tapped over the lead point in the third minute of first-half added time; another handy one straight in front of the posts.

The Connacht champions went straight on the attack upon the restart and Frankie Dolan ignored a brief flash of goal to boom over his side's seventh point and put two in it. McConville tapped over a free from in front of the posts at the other end, after Brigid's goalkeeper Philip Martin was somewhat harshly penalised for overcarrying when caught in possession.

In the 38th minute, a flowing Crossmaglen move culminated in another excellent Jamie Clarke point. The teams were level again: 1-7 each. A minute later, a high ball somehow found its way to Clarke on the edge of the square and the Cross' No.10 created an inch of space to plant a low shot into the back of the net via Martin.

McConville's free made it 2-8 to 1-7 after 41 minutes. The northerners had decisively struck 1-2 inside three minutes. Paul Kernan was again adjudged to have impeded Kilbride under the dropping ball and the St Brigid's targetman had the simplest of tasks in stroking over the accruing free from straight in front of the posts.

In the 47th minute, Clarke picked out McConville with a delightful pass and the veteran attacker had a goal chance but struck his shot over the bar to momentarily put four points between the sides, but Kilbride responded instantly with a magnificent point from play.

Karl Mannion followed up with an inspirational point four minutes later and there were just two between them as this clash went into the last nine minutes. McConville rolled back the years again to curl over a lovely point from a 50-metre free in the 53rd minute: 2-10 to 1-10. It looked like Brigid's would need a goal now…

Dolan uncharacteristically pulled a free wide six minutes from the end and Stephen Kernan was rather crudely tackled by midfielder Gavin Dolan as he executed a fantastic catch. But the foul allowed the winners to play the clock down a bit. Cross' had a chance to kill the game but Clarke dropped his shot short into Martin's arms.

In the 59th minute, Kilbride was extremely unfortunate when his piledriver flew inches over the bar after the Cross' defence had been caught in possession. There was a grandstand finish at Croker with two points between the teams as we went into two minutes of added time.

Veteran warhorse Francie Bellew came into the fray on the stroke of normal time in what had to be a sentimental gesture from the Crossmaglen bench and substitute Kyle Carragher had his personal piece of glory as he outstripped the St Brigid's defence to fist over the last point of the game deep into added time.

Crossmaglen Rangers - P Hearty; P McKeown, P Kernan, J Morgan; A Kernan (0-1, 1f), D O'Callaghan, S Finnegan; J Hanratty, D McKenna; J Clarke (1-3), S Kernan, F Hanratty; T Kernan, A Cunningham (1-0), O McConville (0-6, 5f). Subs - J McEntee for Hanratty, M McNamee for Clarke, M Aherne for T Kernan, K Carragher (0-1) for Finnegan, F Bellew for S Kernan.

St Brigid's - P Martin; R Kelly, D Donnelly, D Sheehy; I Kilbride, P Domican, G Cunniffe; G Dolan, K Mannion (0-1); E Sheehy (1-0), Cathal McHugh (0-1), Darren Dolan; Conor McHugh, S Kilbride (0-8, 6f), F Dolan (0-1). Subs - J Tiernan for Cathal McHugh, D Kelleher for Conor McHugh, J Tiernan for O'Connor.

Ref - C Reilly (Meath).

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