Champions Cross Classic Response
Armagh Senior Football Championship Final Crossmaglen Rangers 2-18 Ballymacnab 2-09
When Jack Grugan flicked a dropping short Gavin McParland ’45’ over the crossbar to put the underdogs Ballymacnab five points clear 2-8 to 9 points, eight minutes in the second half, defending Armagh champions Crossmaglen Rangers looked in big trouble.
But in the true style of champions, Cross clicked into gear in tremendous breathtaking fashion. It was as if someone had ‘poked the beehive’ as the amber and black brigade marched all over there, hitherto composed opponents.
By the time Jack Grugan fired over ‘Nabs next and final point of the game, it was a mere token response to the overwhelming 1-10 without reply from Cross. To add more misery to their mesmerised challengers, Rangers rounded off their remarkable turnaround with a second goal to run out 9 point victors 2-18 to 2-9.
The similarities in this eagerly awaited rematch from 12 months ago makes bad reading for the losers. Last year Ballymacnab lead by 3 points at the short whistle and only scored 4 points in the second half to 13 points from Cross. This year the ‘Nab led 1-6 to 6 points at half time but once again only managed 4 second half scores1-3 with Rangers hitting 14 second half scores to end up winning the half 2-12 to 1-3.
Fielding the same starting 15 that defeated Maghery in the semi-final, Cross were sporting 5 changes to the starting 15 from the decider 12 months ago. Ballymacnab had three changes from last year’s final and also a late programme change with Chris Loughran replacing Ciaran Connolly at corner back.
The challengers began on the front foot with Brian McCome firing wide of the upright but in their first foray forward Oisin O’Neill, from play, opened the Cross account. A minute later Jack Grugan had a levelling free immediately followed by great team point finished off by Rory Grugan. The elusive Cian McConville was fouled enabling Rian O’Neill to restore party for the second time.
Rangers raiding defender Paul Hughes off-loaded to Colin O’Connor who put Cross 3-2 ahead and when the O’Neill brother’s combined it was 4-2 when Oisin added his second point. Paul Meegan cut the deficit to the minimum just ahead of the games opening goal. Jack Grugan delivered a terrific cross field ball to fellow inside forward Gavin McParland who then fielded and finished to the cross net with aplomb 1-3 to 4 points.
Just like 12 months ago, Jack Grugan was causing the Cross defence all sorts of bother and he stretched his side lead with a converted free after been fouled himself. Rian O’Neill and Rory Grugan traded points before Jack Grugan added his third point of the half to put his side 4 points clear in added on time. Rangers talented and most threatening forward Cian McConville completed the scoring with a super point to leave it 1-6 to 0-6 as the half ended.
Whilst we were in flashback mode to the previous year, in terms of score difference at the interval, challengers Ballymacnab looked better equipped this time around against their off key opponents.
Once Jack Grugan began were he left off in the first half, by pointing a good delivery from Rory Grugan to extend his team lead, the anticipation among the ‘Nab supporters was slowly turning into belief.
That belief was rocked as Rangers hit 3 points on the trot a superb effort from Rian O’Neill and a brace from tiredness mid-fielder Stephen Morris and the lead was down to the minimum 0-9 to 1-7. Cross also replaced Johnny McKeever with Kyle Carragher who would go on to make a big impact.
A high delivery into the Cross square caused confusion between Cross goalkeeper and full-back Rico Kelly (who may have been impeded) allowed Jack Grugan to poke the ball into the empty end. Two minutes later, Jack took his personally tally to 1-5 as the ‘Nab looked destined for glory.
It took Cross all of 5 minutes to get back to level terms, Oisin O’Neill 3 frees, Paul Hughes and Alan Farrelly with the levelling point made the 0-14 to 2-8 after 14 minutes, and Callum Cumiskey give Cross the lead from which point and they never looked back. Paul Hughes extended the lead, Mel Boyce palmed a Kyle Carragher cross off the cross bar and over for point number 17. My Man of the Match, Callum Cumiskey weighed in with his second point before a late advantage bad call back by the referee Jake Magill denied Cian McConville an open goal.
We had not long to wait for the first Cross green flag, a six man move ended with Kyle Carragher setting up Colin O’Connor for the goal. On 27 minutes Jack Grugan for the second year in a row, took his County final contribution to 1-6 with his side first score for 19 minutes.
Tony Kernan one of the 5 used substitutes off loaded the ball to Kyle Carragher who in turn set up a his second goal as he palmed the ball across to Oisin O’Neill to apply the finishing touch to let the celebrations of a 45th Armagh Senior County title begin.
The celebrations will be short as Rangers are out on Saturday week at the Althetic Grounds (November 2nd at 7pm) against newly crowned Monaghan Champions Clontibret.
The Conor McManus led outfit denied Scotstown a fifth consecutive title with a 1-14 to 0-11 win against the odds. There will be more interesting banter ahead of this match as Crossmaglen Rangers Legend John McEntee coach to the Monaghan side.
Crossmaglen Rangers: T McConville; P Hughes (0-2), R Kelly, C Crowley; A Kernan, C Cumiskey (0-2), G Carragher; S Morris (0-2), A Farrelly (0-1); J McKeever, O O’Neill (1-5, 0-3f), C O’Connor (1-1); M Boyce (0-1), R O’Neill (0-2, 0-1f) , C McConville (0-2, 0-1f). Subs: K Carragher for McKeever (39 mins), T Kernan for Boyce (48), J Hanratty for Morris (60), S Finnegan for G Carragher (60).
Ballymacnab: C McGivern; C Loughran, R Kennedy, S Lynch; M Beagan, R Gribben, J Gray; C Gribben, P Gribben; P Meegan (0-1), B McCone, O McGivern; R Grugan (0-2), J Grugan (1-6), G McParland (1-0). Subs: R Watters for McGivern (45 mins), N McKee for Meegan (52).
Referee: J Magill (Down).