Champions turn on the style

October 12, 2015

Armagh Senior Football Championship Crossmaglen Rangers 2-22 Armagh Haprs 0-10

“Rumours of our demise have been greatly exaggerated” was the clear message that Crossmaglen Rangers posted nationally following their 2-22 to 0-10 victory over Armagh Harps to capture their 19th Armagh Senior Championship in the last 20 years.

The final was a repeat of last year when Rangers won 4-14 to 0-9 and this year a supposedly much improved Harps would put it up to the waning champions who had no midfield, were minus ace forward Jamie Clarke, their forwards were not functioning and as a team were not playing well. Harps hopes would have been further boosted when star defender Aaron Kernan was ruled out through injury.

What we were treated to was another totally one sided contest as the champions moved up the gears and put in a tremendous team performance that saw them win by a bigger margin than last year, produce one score more (24 in total) shared out amongst 10 different players. Harps managed one more score than the year before but their” big guns” were silenced from the off as the Rangers served notice that they have even bigger fish to fry over the coming weeks. With the Cross defence winning  every battle and “rookie” full-back Aidan Rushe easily nullifying the Gareth Swift threat the Harps were all at sea from the throw-in as Cross dominated midfield and their forwards, as a unit, were terrific, picking off some great points in the process.

The early flurry of points from the champions, their tenacity, fluency and desire for victory threw down the gauntlet straight away for the challengers who, at no stage, ever looked like picking it up. When Stephen Kernan placed Rico Kelly for the game’s opening goal the writing that had looked already on the wall became crystal clear as the challengers retreated to their dressing room to face a second half deficit of 1-10 to 0-5.

Unless Cross failed to turn out for the second half one could not see any way into the game for the challengers who had learned nothing from the previous final except as to just how far they are off the pace in terms of defeating the champions.  When Tony Kernan and Kyle Carragher knocked over the opening two points of the second half the lid on the coffin was firmly shut and team captain and goalkeeper Paul Hearty could spend the rest of the game rehearsing his victory speech on his special day. While I do not know if his 19 Senior Championship medals is a national record, I would say that 19 in 20 years certainly is.  The second half was merely a process of effortlessly, going through the motions for the champions with dominant midfielder David McKenna capping a fine display with his team’s second goal to finish joint top scorer with 1-2. Tony Kernan helped himself to 0-5 with Mickey McNamee and Kyle Carragher getting 4 points apiece.. Man of the Match defender Paul Hughes also weighed in with 2 points equalled by his fellow custodian Martin Aherne. A late change to the starting 15 Rico Kelly proved a very able target man up front and belted home a great goal to which he added a point. Johnny Hanratty and the influential Stephen Kernan also got their names on the scoreboard as did minor star Oisin O’Neill.

For a hugely disappointing Armagh Harps side this second crushing defeat will be a hard one to bounce back from. Gareth Swift, with 5 pointed frees, was their top marksman, Ultan Lennon (0-2) Karl Loughran (0-1), Decky McKenna (0-1), and Ryan McShane (0-1) were their other scorers. The Armagh Champions face a home tie in the Ulster Club championship against Antrim champions (Cargin play Lamh Dhearg next Sunday) in the Athletic Grounds on Sunday Nov 1 at 3-30 pm.