Holders looking to retain titles
Armagh champions Crossmaglen Rangers and Down champions Kilcoo have both reached their respective County Finals as they bid to add further glory to their names. The Armagh final will be a repeat of last year when Rangers, bidding for six in a row, will face Armagh Harps whom they beat 4-14 to 0-9 last year.
The injury hit Armagh champions survived the early loss through injury of the very influential Aaron Kernan (he faces a race against the clock to be fit for the final) to overcome Maghery 0-12 to 0-9. The much anticipated semi was a damp squib with the champions looking very decidedly ordinary still too much of a handful for a Maghery side that did not believe from the outset that they could win. It was a low scoring opening half with 3 Tony Kernan and 2 David McKenna points giving Cross a 5-2 lead with Aidan Forker getting the 2 Maghery scores.
A 43rd minute Stephen Kernan point had the champions ahead by double scores 0-10 to 0-5 but 10 minutes later the challengers had reduced the deficit to 2 points 0-11 to 0-9 but could not add to their tally with both sides finishing with 14 men.
The second semi in Armagh saw a Gareth Swift inspired Harps score 2-16 on their way to a 6 point victory over neighbours Ballymacnab for whom Gavin McParland scxored their two goals. The ‘Nab led 3-1 after 4 minutes but failed to score for 23 minutes by which time Harps had replied with 1-7 with the goal coming from Ryan McShane. On 27 minutes McParland coolly slipped the ball under Morrison the Harps custodian (who made a couple of fine saves over the course of the match ) followed by a Kennedy point to leave it 1-8 to 1-5 at the short whistle. By the time Kennedy opened the ‘Nab second half account Harps, some 10 minutes after the restart, courtesy of a superb team goal the length of the field finished off by Charlie Vernon had surged 8 points 2-10 to 1-5. With 5 minutes left on the clock a second McParland goal was mere cosmetics as Harps added 3 final points for a 2-16 to 2-10 victory. Harps may have looked the more impressive in getting to the final but Rangers championship record and a 17 point deficit from last year will have to be made up.
In Down Kilcoo seeking the four in a row have thus far produced the answers when the big questions have been asked. Unbeaten all year Burren were put to the sword in the quarter final and Mayobridge were put away 2-9 to 1-7 in the semi-final. Jerome Johnston with 2-3 took the scoring honours in a game that saw 6 players dismissed two from Kilcoo late in the game and 4 for Mayobridge. Kilcoo will face Castlewellan in the final following their 1-13 to 0-8 win over Ballyholland. The teams had gone in level at 4 points each at the break but it proved to be an uphill struggle for 14 man Ballyholland in the second half with a 22 minute Kevin Duffin goal sealing a comfortable win. The challengers will be contesting their first final since they lost 0-15 to 1-9 to Mayobridge, also it is 20 years since they were crowned Down champions.