First Ulster Title for Crossmaglen Rangers

January 4, 2016

Kukri Sports Ulster Club Minor Football Tournament Final Crossmaglen Rangers 4-12 St Eunan’s Letterkenny 1-6

It may have been the 33rd Ulster Club Minor Football Tournament run by St Paul’s, Belfast and kindly sponsored by Kukri Sports but for winners Crossmaglen Rangers it was to be their first ever Ulster Minor title.

Having overcome Tyrone champions Moortown 2-13 to 1-6 in the semi-final Cross faced Donegal champions St Eunan’s who disposed of Enniskillen Gaels 4-11 to 0-8 in the other semi-final.. The Donegal champion’s victory came at a cost as they lost the services through injury of towering midfielder Rory Carr. Rangers on the other hand had shown improvement from their opening round victory over Rostrevor 2-14 to 0-11.

The game was played in steady rain through with a diagonal breeze. The winners concentrated on using the long ball, to master the conditions, while the losers played the short passing game, which made little impression against their bigger and stronger opponents.

The loss of midfielder Carr was as a big blow to the losers as it turned out because Rangers midfielders Stephen Morris and Man of the match award winner Oisin O Neill proved the launchpad for a plentiful supply of the ball to their forwards. Indeed it was the scoring ability of the Cross forwards in the opening quarter that had set the teams aside as Rangers had raced into a 4 point before their challengers opened their account by raising a green flag in the17th minute. Eunan’s top scorer on the day Niall O’Donnell (0-3) somehow squeezed a pass inside to attacking half-back Brian MacIntyre who calmly slotted the ball past McEvoy for a goal.

Crucially for Cross their reply was swift and clinical as the games top marksman Miceal McCabe (2-1) swept home his teams opening goal immediately followed by a Ruairi O’Neill point, to stretch the lead to 5 points after 20 minutes. Eunan’s O Donnell pointed 3 frees and they had a fourth minor from Oisin O’Boyle to replies from Ruairi and Oisin O’Neill. With the game in first half added time the killer score arrived for Rangers. The Donegal keeper gave away a penalty and was soundly beaten as Oisin O’Neill blasted the ball home to leave his team 2-7 to 1-4 ahead at the break.

By the time substitute Evan McCrory had notched the Donegal teams only two points of the second half Cross had extended their lead to 10 points. Any hopes of a revival were smashed once McCabe rifled home his second goal of the game on 57 minutes. A fourth Rangers goal followed from Shane McConville to give them a 4-12 to 1-6 triumph.

A shrewd observer of football close to me quipped”Joe, I know that ye get up to a lot in South Armagh but cloning football teams is just not on as these youngsters were a carbon copy of just how their Seniors play” I said that this is a new supply line and that these boys will be all about putting their own stamp on Crossmaglen Rangers history, in the years to come.

Crossmaglen: J McEvoy; R McKeever, S Farrelly, A Smylie; D Cunningham (0-1), C Dillon, C Donnelly; S Morris (0-1), O O’Neill (1-3, 1-0 penalty, 0-1 free); R O’Neill (0-3), C O’Connor (0-1), J McKeever; M McCabe (2-1), R O’Neill (0-1), R O’Connor.

Subs: S McConville (1-1) for R O’Connor (44), F Burns for Dillon (49), O Keenan for R O’Neill (53), P Short for Donnelly (57).

Letterkenny: M Gallagher; C Moore, D McWalters, S Halvey; B McIntyre (1-0), D Toal, K Kealey; O Toal, K Grant; O O’Boyle (0-1 free), N O’Donnell (0-3, 0-2 frees), C Maloney; O McGinley, D McCrory, J Whelan.

Subs: E McCrory (0-2) for Whelan (46), P McAleer for Maloney (57), G Maguire for Moore (59).  Black card: N O’Donnell (60) replaced by D Hamilton.