All-Ireland club football final: Cross' and 'Castle draw

March 17, 2012

Crossmaglen's Jamie Clarke tries to get away from the attentions of Doran Harte and John Gaffey of Garrycastle ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne
Crossmaglen Rangers and Garrycastle played out an epic 0-15 to 1-12 draw at Croke Park.

A crowd of 25,412 people were kept on the edge of their seats throughout as these two magnificent teams went toe to toe. Both sides were reduced to 14 men, with Tom McHugh and Paul Kernan each going off with two yellows early in the second half, and the holders recovered a five-point deficit before spurning five match-winning chances at the death.

Garrycastle produced an excellent first-half display and Patrick Mulvihill's 21st-minute goal helped them take a 1-8 to 0-7 interval advantage.

Dessie Dolan popped the Green & Reds into the lead with a second-minute point, awarded after Crossmaglen full back Paul Kernan was penalised and yellow carded even though he appeared to get the ball with his diving tackle. The Westmeath champions had settled quickest and James Dolan doubled their advantage with a tidy point in the third minute.

Jamie Clarke collected a quick free and swivelled to open the holders' account in the fourth minute. Kyle Brennan, wearing No.18, was a late addition to the Cross' starting XV but his effort flew to the right of the posts and wide. Corner back Paul McKeown also had a go but his shot was left and wide…

Garrycastle's Paul Dillon was a very lucky man to only see yellow when he pushed his head towards Brendan McKeown's and the latter - another late selection - was also booked seconds later for a foul on James Duignan. Duignan made it 0-3 to 0-1 immediately after getting on the end of a quick free.

Tony Kernan and the inimitable Dessie Dolan traded points and the underdogs led by 0-4 to 0-2 after ten minutes. But Cross' wing back Aaron Kernan bombed upfield to slot over an excellent left-footed point in the eleventh minute.

Garrycastle goalkeeper Cathal Mullin did brilliantly to foil Tony Kernan and Dillon slotted over a free after Dessie Dolan was fouled by Paul Kernan. Oisin McConville tapped over a 13-metre free from in front of the posts on 14 minutes (after a foul on Clarke) to make it a one-point match again, 0-5 to 0-4.

Dessie Dolan measured another free to perfection to curl it between the posts and Clarke dropped over an excellent point from play, off that trusty left boot. Cross' had a good chance when Aaron Kernan ran at the Garrycastle defence but James Gaffey dealt well with the threat, standing his ground.

In the 21st minute, after Paul Kernan could only parry a high delivery from a sideline ball, Garrycastle full forward Patrick Mulvihill rocked the defending champions with a superb goal, sending a low shot past the despairing dive of Paul Hearty to the bottom left corner of the net: 1-6 to 0-5. Dillon missed a simple free as the midlanders tried to move further ahead and McConville picked out Clarke for a tidy point at the Hill 16 end: 1-6 to 0-6 after 24 minutes.

Hearty gathered a shot from Tom McHugh and James Dolan made it a four-point game four minutes from the break after a mistake at the back by Aaron Kernan. It was one-way traffic as blood substitute Aidan Browne slotted over another point to put the challengers five points ahead coming up to the short whistle.

In first-half injury time, full forward Michael McNamee arrowed over an excellent point from an acute angle off his left foot to leave four in it at the break.

David McKenna dropped a shot short upon the restart. When Tony Kernan was fouled, Aaron Kernan dropped his free short into the goalkeeper's hands. In total, the Black & Amber missed three great chances in the first three minutes of the second half, with Johnny Hanratty also off target.

In the fifth minute of the second half, Garrycastle corner back Tom McHugh was sent off with a second yellow card after fouling Clarke, and McConville thumped over the close-range free to double the punishment. Garrycastle went back on the attack and Dessie Dolan arced over a sumptuous free after a foul on Duignan - 1-9 to 0-8.

In the tenth minute of the second half, Cross' were also reduced to 14 men when Paul Kernan was adjudged to have fouled Gary Dolan and handed a second yellow card - Dessie Dolan tapped over the free and the Leinster champions moved into a commanding 1-10 to 0-8 lead.

Great play by Clarke placed Aaron Kernan for his second point and Tony Kernan brought it back to a three-point match after Clarke had hit the butt of the post from a yard out when a goal looked inevitable. Corner back Mark McCallon stopped the ball from bobbling over the line… 1-10 to 0-10 with 17 minutes to go…

Clarke hit an upright and the ball could easily have fallen into McConville's arms in front of goal but instead it rebounded to safety. McConville didn't let his head drop and he pointed from a tight angle across his shoulder to reduce the arrears to two with 14 minutes to go.

David McKenna was wreaking havoc in the Garrycastle defence since moving in to the full forward line and he won the free from which McConville pointed to make it 0-12 to 1-10 with 13 minutes remaining. The sides were level a minute later when McConville landed a trademark free from the hands.

The Ulster champions had been dominant since their full back was sent to the line but McConville dropped another effort short before Dessie Dolan bought a cheap free from the Cross' defence and thumped over the kick to make it 1-11 to 0-13 with 51 minutes gone.

Tony Kernan sent a shot to the right and wide after Clarke was denied a free close to goal. At the other end, Mulvihill showed great persistence to whack over the insurance point: 1-12 to 0-13 to Garrycastle with six minutes left to play.

McConville dropped over a fabulous point from a 45-metre free five minutes from the end to leave the minimum between them again in an intriguing contest; the repositioned McKenna equalised 40 seconds later with a great finish from a tight angle.

Three minutes from the end, Cross' were awarded a debatable free 20 yards out but McConville couldn't curl it over from the left wing. The Armagh champions came forward again and McConville missed another shot off his left boot in the 60th minute. There would be two added minutes…

On the stroke of normal time, Clarke missed another goal chance when he got on the end of Aaron Kernan's free but inexplicably palmed the ball side with just the goalkeeper to beat from three yards. Tony Kernan missed another shot in the first minute of injury time.

In all, Cross' turned down five match-winning opportunities in the closing stages, with Clarke dropping one short and the final whistle sounded with the sides level.

The replay should be interesting. Garrycastle came very, very close to glory today, while Crossmaglen pulled it out of the fire and also missed a hatful of great chances in the second half.

Crossmaglen Rangers - P Hearty; J Morgan, P Kernan, P McKeown; A Kernan (0-2), D O'Callaghan, B McKeown; J Hanratty, D McKenna (0-1); T Kernan (0-2), K Brennan, A Cunningham; J Clarke (0-3), M McNamee (0-1), O McConville (0-6). Subs - S Finnegan for B McKeown, K Carragher for Brennan, M Aherne for McNamee, F Hanratty for Caragher.

Garrycastle - C Mullin; M McCallon, J Gaffey, T McHugh; K Henson, D Harte, E Mulvihill; S O'Donoghue, D O'Shaughnessy; P Dillon (0-1), D Dolan (0-6), J Dolan (0-2); G Dolan, P Mulvihill (0-1), J Duignan (0-1). Subs - R McGowan for Duignan, A Browne (0-1) for G Dolan, A Fox for Henson, A Daly for Dillon.

Ref - R Hickey (Clare).

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