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Rangers back in the groove

 ● Senior Championship Final Ballymacnab 1-15 Crossmaglen Rangers 0-24

The quality of football and the numerous scores from play (22 points from Cross, 1-12 for Ballymacnab) contributed to a most enjoyable and entertaining Armagh final seen in a long time. 

A lot of credit must go to rank outsiders Ballymacnab who had a really good go at the hottest of favourites Cross whose all round team work and ability to pick off points saw them win their first Armagh Championship in three years 0-24 to 1-15. 

A minute’s silence before the game to remember Cross Honorary President Paddy Kindlon Senior was observed. Oisin McGivern gave the ‘Nab a second minute lead quickly replied by a Pauric Stuttard point straight from the kick out. Full forward Jack Grugan who had a magically opening half fired over his first point and when his brother Rory pointed a free inside 5 minutes the ‘Nab had equalled their full tally score achieved in their last final appearance. 

When Jack Grugan swivelled about 25 yards from goal his unstoppable shot flew into the bottom corner of the net to put the underdogs 5 points clear. Cross though, rather than being rattled by the goal, came down to the other end to put 4 unanswered points, 1 from Johnny McKeever, and 3 in a row from Kyle Carragher, his third a fisted effort after Ballymacnab keeper Sean Hughes had pulled off a terrific stop to deny Stuttard a goal. 

Twelve minutes in, Jack was at it again floating over a super point which was cancelled out by an equally good effort from Johnny Hanratty. Rangers keeper Jamie McEvoy made a terrific interception save to deny the ‘Nab a second goal.

Gavin McParland pointed the ‘Nab back in front with Jack Grugan point to make it 1-6 to 0-7 after 22 minutes. Johnny Hanratty and Kieran Hughes exchanged points before a fourth point for Jack put a green flag between them with four minutes left of the half. 

Oisin O’Neill, with his second point, reduced the deficit before a Rory Grugan for a foul on McParland followed as Rangers captian Aaron Kernan got on the score sheet with his opening point. Johnny Hanratty reduced the deficit to the minimum with a point Rangers with 11 out of 11 from open play. 

Jack Grugan took his own tally to 1-5 as he added the two final scores of the half which left it 1-11 to 0-11 at the short whistle in favour of Ballymacnab. 

No doubt about it but Jack had to be put in his box for the second half if Cross was to deliver the goods. James Morgan was assigned the second half man marking job. 

Seconds after the restart one might have tought it was going to be the ‘Nab’s day as James Grey so how manage to keep out an Oisin O’Neill goal with an exceptional on the line save to stop the ball crossing the line. 

When Kieran Hughes opened the second half scoring with his third point of the game the lead was four points but Johnny Hanratty replied immediately with a Rangers point. Rangers introduced minors Cian McConville who made an immediate impact with a shot going wide of the upright. 

The two O’Neill brothers Oisin and Rian interchanged a couple of times before Rian opened his scoring account with his first point. A very good 5 man Ballymacnab move from defence to attack ended with Hughes taking his team total to 1-13 on 37 minutes. 

Telling though, this was to be the underdogs last score until the 60th minute as Cross went from 0-13 to 0-21 with eight unanswered points, put the game to bed and out of reach of their gallant opponents. 

A turning point may have been when the referee seemlying allowed an advantage as Rory Grugan shot for a point whilst being tackled a little late the ball was fielded safely by the goalkeeper McEvoy but no free followed. 

Cross as already mentioned answered this let off with a string of points as Rian O’Neill (free), Aaron Kernan, Rian O’Neill, Johnny Hanratty (lead point), Rian O’Neill (free), Johnny McKeever, Cian McConville (2) added to the scoreboard in that order. 

Gavin McParland ended the ‘Nab’s scoring drought by converting a 45’ but Cross was not finished yet as scoring defenders Paul Hughes and Aaron Kernan got points 22 and 23. Jack Grugan took his personal tally to 1-6 as his try for a goal from a free flew over the bar. 

There was still time for the selected Man of the Match Rian O’Neill to point the scoring as Cross ran out 0-24 to 1-15 winners. 

Cross will now face Tyrone Champions Coalisland on Saturday week in the Althetic Grounds as the second game of the double header as St. Peter’s will play An Táite Riabhach Naoimh Pádraig in the Intermediate Championship. The time of the games are Intermediate at 5pm and Senior at 7pm. 

Ballymacnab: Sean Hughes, Ciaran Connolly, Ryan Kennedy, Ruairi Gribben, Michael Beagan, Paudi Crilly, James Gray, Pauric Gribben, Paul Meegan, Kieran Hughes (0-04), Oisin McGivern (0-01), Ryan Watters, Rory Grugan (0-02, 0-01f), Jack Grugan (1-06, 0-01f), Gavin McParland (0-02, 0-01 45’).

Subs: Brendan Toner for Watters (49’), Brian McCone for Hughes (50’), Conor McGivern for S Hughes (52’).

Crossmaglen Rangers: Jamie McEvoy, Rico Kelly, Alan Farrelly, Garbhan Carragher, Aaron Kernan (0-03), James Morgan, Paul Hughes (0-01), Stephen Morris, Oisin O’Neill (0-02), Johnny McKeever (0-03), Rian O’Neill (0-05, 0-2f), Paudi Stuttard (0-01), Mickey McNamee, Johnny Hanratty (0-04), Kyle Carragher (0-03).

Subs: Cian McConville (0-02) for McNamee (34’), Callum Cumiskey for G Carragher (45’), David McKenna for Hanratty (58’), Aidan Rushe for Stuttard (60’), Mel Boyce for J McKeever (60).