Rangers Cross Cargin Hurdle
● Ulster Club SFC: Crossmaglen 2-15 Cargin 0-13
It must have been “the whiskey in the tae” at the half-time break that did the trick for Crossmaglen Rangers as they came out with all guns blazing to blitz a Cargin side that had caused them plenty of trouble in the opening half.
The Antrim champions settled far quicker and rattled over 4 points in their first four attacks inside 7 minutes to lead 4-1 and were still 3 points ahead on 27 minutes 7-4 but by the time the short whistle had sounded Cross had restored parity. The rank outsiders had nothing to show for their first half efforts but the reality that they would have to start all over again in the second half, which must have been a bit demoralising for them given their performance.
Cross showed one change from their county final starting 15 with fit again Aaron Kernan replacing injured midfielder David McKenna starting in his midfield position. Facing into a very strong sun it was another late inclusion Ciaran Close for Cargin who gave the Rangers plenty to worry about as he notched 3 of their opening 4 points. Cargin opened their account on 40 seconds as Close converted a free following a foul on McKernan by Rushe. At the other end Rangers Rico Kelly saw his effort hit the upright before Close doubled his account from play. A terrific burst through the middle saw Johnny Hanraty open the Cross scoring on 6 minutes. Michael Magill grabbed the first of his 5 point haul in reply and then Close made it 4-1 after 7 minutes. Following a John Murtagh wide Rangers reduced the deficit to the minimum inside 5 minutes as Tony Kernan converted a free and Mickey McNamee fired over from play. On 14 minutes Cargin registered their first wide but a Magill “45” doubled the lead to 5-3 on 16 minutes. Rico and McCann both picked up yellow cards during a scoreless 6 minutes which was halted by a sweeping Rangers 5 man move ending with Stephen Kernan reducing the deficit to the minimum. A bad wide from a good levelling position by Murtagh was punished as points from Magill (his third) and a great distance point from Michael McCann had Cargin 7-4 up 2 minutes from the short whistle. Cross introduced Garbhan Carragher in defence to replace Stephen Finnegan and Cross finished the half on the ascendency. Frees from the Kernan brothers Aaron and Tony were followed by the levelling point from Mickey McNamee.
Whether it was the strong Winter sun in their eyes or the changed starting line-out it was very unusual to see renowned fast starters Cross get off to such a sluggish start to a game. Cargin were the better team in the opening half with Close, Magill and McKernan giving the Rangers defence plenty of food for thought snapping up the quick supply of ball they were getting from the McCann midfield partnership. Cross management had implemented a few shrewd switches prior to the break with the substitution and the moving of Rico to the troubled midfield area.
When Aaron Kernan opened the second half scoring with a pointed free the Armagh champions were in the lead for the first time and never looked back. Tony Kernan converted a “45” to double the lead. Cargin replied with a point before a bit of a shemozzle developed involving a dozen players and resulted in yellow cards for James Morgan and Gerard McCann. The rattled Antrim champions spilled the ball on their own “45” and Murtagh raced through and even with men over he atoned for his earlier misses, unleashing a fierce shot which flew past the ‘keeper’s outstretched left arm to give Cross a 1-10 to 0-8 lead in the 39th minute. Aaron Kernan then added a point to make it 1-11 to 0-8 but a long delivery from Scullion bounced over the Rangers crossbar with skipper and goalkeeper Hearty missing the punched clearance. A minute after replacing goalscorer Murtagh Oisin O Neill fired over a point and then set up Aaron Kernan for a goal put his “placed effort into the top corner” was wide of the post. Michael and Thomas McCann kept them in touch with points but a 48th minute fisted point from O’Neill made it 1-13 to 0-11. But fair play to the challengers they still refused to buckle with a Michael Magill “45” and a super sole second from a very acute angle keeping them very much in the contest.
The Antrim champions were within a green flag but committed suicide straight away from the kick-out with Gerard McCann getting sent off for a second yellow with nine minutes remaining. Stephen Kernan grabbed his second point before setting up Johnny Hanratty for a goal. The midfielder showed great composure to shrug off the defender before calmly planting the ball past O’Reilly. Youngster O’Neill rounded off the scoring with his third point to leave it 2-15 to 0-13 at the long whistle.
Cross will be delighted at being given a stern examination of the credentials for the first time in 2015. The Armagh champions have been forced to chop and change because of injury and are lacking the fluency of fielding a settled side. In their last two championship outings the Rangers have shown one thing–that when the questions are being asked they can move up the gears. Ranger’s management have also had the opportunity to give their bench extended playing time in their last two outings. With the defending Ulster champions and beaten All-Ireland finalists out at the hands of Scotstown, four times winners of the competition with their last win back in 1989 who now play Tyrone champions Trillick Cross will not be looking any further than the task that awaits them. Cross have a fortnight to look forward to as they face a rematch against Down champions Kilcoo, who defeated them after a replay in 2013. The Down champions sent out a clear message with their 3-15 to 0-5 win over Kingscourt. A venue for this game has yet to be decided but they will come from far and wide to see it as their previous matches were terrific affairs. The last time these sides met they were given the option of tossing for venue.
Crossmaglen Rangers: P Hearty; P Hughes, A Rushe, P McKeown; S Finnegan, M Aherne, J Morgan; J Hanratty (1-1), A Kernan (0-3); M McNamee (0-2), S Kernan (0-2), T Kernan (0-4); J Murtagh (1-0), R Kelly, K Carragher
Subs: G Carragher for Finnegan, O O’Neill (0-3) for Murtagh, A Cunningham for Kelly, P Stuttard for McNamee, K Brennan for K Carragher
Cargin: C O’Reilly; M Kane, J Laverty, K O’Boyle; T Scullion (0-1), J Crozier, J Carron; M McCann (0-2), G McCann; P McCann, T McCann (0-2), E McGrogan; R McKernan, C Close (0-3), M Magill (0-5)
Subs: M Kelly for McGrogan, B Laverty for P McCann, M Clarke for T McCann
Referee: Joe McQuillan (Cavan)