Debutants Tough Task

November 5, 2008

Crossmaglen Rangers Armagh v St Patrick’s, Donagh, Fermanagh

After capturing their first ever Fermanagh senior championship St Patrick’s, Donagh could not have been handed a tougher Ulster Club debut than a visit to the home of defending champions Crossmaglen Rangers at St Oliver Plunkett Park.

There is already a Donagh connection to Sunday’s match in Crossmaglen in that famed pitch builders, Prunty’s hail from that parish and have carried out the refurbishment to the field which will be in use for the first time on Sunday since the renovations took place.

It is a clash of the experienced versus the inexperienced as the hosts hold all the records against the new kids on the block. St Patrick’s, only in existence 37 years, won their first county title after having lost 6 previous finals 1976, 1978, 2002 & 2003 all to Enniskillen Gaels who defeated Cross in the 2001 Ulster Club and 1982& 84 to Peter McGinnety’s Roslea Shamrocks.

The champions are free once again to express themselves now that the pressure is off,  having successfully come through Armagh for a record 13 times in a row as well as tying the all time 37 Senior championship haul with Castleblayney Faughs. From here on in anything more for Cross is a bonus but make no mistake they will be all out to go at least one step further than last year’s All-Ireland semi-final defeat to St Vincent’s who relinquished their All-Ireland, Leinster and Dublin titles on the day Rangers were recording win number 13 against Pearse Og.

To think that St Patrick’s will be coming to Cross to stand back and admire the facilities and opposition will be very foolish. The Fermanagh side have nothing to lose and all to gain if they could pull off a shock result. Remember before their local championship began they were rank outsiders but defied the odds on four occasions against regular Fermanagh championship winners to capture their inaugural title. Teemore were first up defeated 1-17 to 1-7 followed by Enniskillen Gaels 0-14 to 0-10. A semi-final win 1-10 to 1-5 over Lisnaskea set up a final meeting with Derrygonnelly where they made history with a 0-11 to 0-10 triumph. 2-52 scored in four matches is a very good scoring average with the Caddy brothers Patrick and Jason and county man Eamon Maguire leading the scoring stats. It is the concession of 2-32 in the four matches that will interest Cross more as it hints of a somewhat porous defence up against one of the games leading scoring club sides.


The news emulating from the challengers camp is not good as they will be travelling to Crossmaglen without a few of their key players, out through injury. Star man, all year midfielder Paul Cosgrove broke his shoulder in the county final and has undergone an operation as has regular half-back Paul McManus. Kevin Maguire, a brother of Eamon, is also on the injury list while replacement Eamon McGrue is suspended.

Both Cosgrove and McManus were late additions to Malachy O’Rourke’s Fermanagh squad such was the progress and performances they produced for their club. Pat Caddy, Eamon Maguire and Shane McDermott are on the Erne County panel with Maguire and McDermott established stars with 21 year old Caddy awaiting his chance.

On their run to championship success, the middle of the park is where St Patricks have been especially well served this summer by the burgeoning talent of the youthful Paul Cosgrove who has been instrumental in providing an ample supply of possession that can be channelled onwards to the attack. Cosgrove’s effort has been ably bolstered by the presence of Shane McDermott while Eamon Maguire has also been dropped back in intermittent moments as the occasion demands. Now with Cosgrove out it will be interesting to see if they will deploy Eamon Maguire that far out from goal as he will inflict much more damage if he operates well within the scoring zone

Rangers back division will have to curb the impact of a St Patrick’s forward line which has the hard working Gary Maguire as the pivotal target man. Alongside Maguire are proven scorers Pat and Jason Cadden, with the place kicking ability of this duo a critical part of the team’s strengths.

Pat Grue and Joseph McGovern are the leaders in a defence that has mixed the good with the bad all year. In the wins over Enniskillen and Derrygonnelly they battle very hard to hold off late onslaughts to see themselves over the finish line. Prone to bouts of indiscipline, Rangers, as seen in the Armagh County final have Oisin McConville and returned Aussie International Rules player Aaron Kernan to punish those indiscretions with severity.


Crossmaglen Rangers are embarking on their thirteenth straight Ulster campaign while opponents St. Patrick’s are on their first. Rangers are seeking a third successive Provincial title, a feat that eluded them in 2000 and yet another goal to keep them going. Over the course of this year’s Armagh championship Cross have not been seen at their best but when the big question was asked of them at half-time in the county final their second half display gave all the answers.

Looking in trouble against the Og’s and facing the stiff breeze only a point to the good for the second half, all the characteristics that have made this team the best in the country emerged. Determination, desire, commitment and, above all, a hunger for more glory only serves as notice to the rest of the country. While other clubs have come and gone over the last decade the Rangers record is phenomenal.

A feature of Rangers latest triumph is the influence the 6 players Paul Hearty, Francie Bellew, John & Tony McEntee, Cathal Short and Oisin McConville who were picking up an unprecedented thirteenth medal in a row on the win over Pearse Og. Hearty was rock solid in goals. Francie shipped some water against All –Star Ronan Clarke in the first half but was a rock at centre half-back in the second half. Cathal Short has become the target man in attack with great effect. Oisin McConville converted 6 frees despite missing a handy opening one while Tony McEntee was not far behind twin John when it came to handing out the Man of the Match award. Add in most influential team Captain John Donaldson to complete the 30 + brigade to give a wealth of experienced and know-how second to none.

In light of Cross’ success and the way they constantly bring in new faces there exists a three tier system within the team in terms of age and experience. The older brigade has been through it all but the middle tier have also scaled the heights and been through the mill. The 23 to 25 year old brigades have all made names for themselves in their own right. The Kernan brothers Aaron and Stephen are established county players who along with Mickey McNamee, Martin Aherne , John Murtagh and the injured Brendan McKeown have helped to continue the Rangers Dynasty of success by coming through the ranks to play leading roles.

Alarmingly for all challengers there is a third level in this present Crossmaglen Rangers squad who are making their way onto the team but have already picked up County, Ulster and All –Ireland medals even though they are still in their early twenties. Defenders Paul McKeown, Paul Kernan, Stephen Finnegan, midfielder David McKenna and forwards Johnny Hanratty and Tony Kernan have all played pivotal roles as the Rangers bandwagon rolls on. Worse still for opponents there are a few new younger recruits added to Donal Murtagh’s squad who could feature before the year is at an end. The average age of the Rangers 2008 County Final starting team was 26 years.


A full strength St Patrick’s would have faced an uphill battle to overcome the champions on home soil with their task made all the more difficult given their injury problems.

No matter how you look at this encounter there can only be one outcome, a semi-final place for Crossmaglen Rangers against St Eunan’s (Donegal) who were 2-10 to 1-8 over Tyrone champions Clonoe in a match clouded in controversy before it even started. Clonoe used a loophole to play banned pair Emmett Teague and Colm Doris in the game but St Eunan’s averted the possibility of major controversy as a Ciaran Sharkey penalty six minutes from time sealed the win at Coalisland where the Tyrone side led 1-6 to 1-5 at the interval.

The other semi-final will feature the 2006 beaten finalists Ballinderry who defeated Monaghan champions Latton 1-11 to 0-10  The Derry champions will face Cavan Gaels who caused a bit of an upset by beating last year’s beaten finalists St Gall’s 1-7 to 0-7

The semi-finals will take place on Sunday Nov 16 with the final scheduled for Nov 30.

St Patrick’s – How they got there

St Patrick’s 1-17 Teemore 1-07

A tremendous individual performance from centre forward Pat Cadden, who scored 1-8, got St Patrick’s championship campaign off to a winning start. Although struggling in the league, the inspired play from Cadden helped his team to victory as they led 1-9 to 1-3 at half-time.

St. Patrick’s 0-14 Enniskillen 0-10

St. Patrick’s clinched their place in the semi final of the Quinn Insurance Senior Football Championship on Saturday when they defeated Enniskillen Gaels by four points in Lisnaskea.

This was a deserved victory for Sean Maguire’s side who withstood a second half fight back from the Gaels before securing the win and a clash with Lisnaskea in the semi-finals. 

The Gaels seemed to be controlling the contest in the opening quarter as they moved into a 0-03 to 0-01 lead but they were left shell shocked over the remainder of the half as St. Pat’s rattled over eight points, in a 15 minute spell, to hold a commanding 0-09 to 0-03 advantage at the break.

And it looked to be plain sailing for the Donagh side as they tagged on another three points early in the second half to go into a 0-12 to 0-03 lead.  Enniskillen began to get a grip on matters and they started to eat into the deficit with Mattie Keenan and Ryan McCluskey leading the charge.

With six minutes of the 60 left to play the gap was down to two, and with St. Pat’s firmly on the back foot it looked like the Gaels could go on and pull off the unlikeliest of comebacks. However, the turning point arrived when Mickey Lilly’s shot for a point was blocked down by Eamon Maguire and St. Pat’s moved the ball down the field for Pat Grue to eventually fire over.

This score seemed to kill off the Enniskillen challenge and Pat Cadden landed the insurance point for St. Pat’s as they came away victorious.

St Patrick’s 1-10 Lisnaskea 1-05

St Patrick’s were behind 1-4 to 1-1 at half-time but restricted Lisnaskea to a single second half point, with the loss of Mark Little at half-time a big blow to Lisnaskea’s hopes as they missed his thrusting runs and ball carrying ability thereafter. After the interval St Pat’s took a firm grip on the game with Paul Cosgrove putting a good shift at midfield and attacker Eamon Maguire proving difficult for the Lisnaskea defence to handle.

Within six minutes of the restart St Pat’s were level but it was only 10 minutes from time when they took the lead through Eamon Maguire. After this the Lisnaskea challenge fell away as St Pat’s went on to tag on points from a Maguire free, Eamon McDermott, Pat Cadden and another Maguire free give them a deserved 1-10 to 1-05 victory.

St Patrick’s 0-11 Derrygonnelly 0-10

St. Patrick’s, Donagh captured an inaugural Fermanagh SFC success, following a slender one-point victory over Derrygonnelly by 0-11 to 0-10 in a keenly contested final at Brewster Park in Enniskillen.

Indeed, St Pat’s were deserved winners and should have had the game dead and buried in a first half, in which they dominated for long periods, missed an early penalty and kicked 10 wides. Despite a first-half penalty miss by Pat Cadden, St. Patrick’s led by 0-7 to 0-3 at the interval with Gary Maguire kicking three first half points.

Although the eventual winners opened up a six-point lead on the restart, Derrygonnelly staged a strong second half display with Kevin Cassidy on target with four points, as the gap was reduced to the minimum.

Paul McCaffrey propelled St. Patrick’s into a two-point lead late on and although a second point from substitute Paul Ward cut the gap to the minimum – a Michael McGrade point ensured Patrick’s restored their two-point cushion.

But Derrygonnelly pushed St. Patrick’s all the way and although Ryan Jones cut the gap to the minimum, and Derrygonnelly had a number of late missed chances, St. Patrick’s stood firm to take their first success.

St. Pat’s: Patrick Quaile, Martin Collins, Ronan McCaffrey, Brendan O’Reilly, Pat Grue, Joseph McGovern, Colm O’Reilly, Shane McDermott, Paul Cosgrove, Patrick Cadden (0-03), Eamonn McDermott, Gary Maguire (0-02), Jason Cadden (0-01), Eamonn Maguire (0-02), Fergal O’Reilly (Capt) . Subs: Paul McCaffrey (0-01) for Cosgrove, Michael McGrade (0-01) for J. Cadden