Crossmaglen make minor final with win over St Malachy's
Kukri Sports Ulster Club Minor Football Tournament semi-final:
Crossmaglen Rangers (Armagh) 2-13 Moortown St Malachy's (Tyrone) 1-6
The conditions were miserable for everyone concerned during Saturday's Kukri Sports Ulster Club Football Tournament semi-final at St Paul's in Belfast, but both Crossmaglen and Moortown served up an entertaining clash of free-flowing football, before the Armagh champions emerged 2-13 to 1-6 winners.
It certainly wasn't a day for fancy football, with the more traditional style best suited to the constant rain. Crossmaglen booked their place in the New Year's Day final because of greater strength around the pitch, particularly in the midfield area, where Oisin O'Neill was outstanding. His combination with full-forward Rian O'Neill was superb.
High-fielding was also a feature of the game, with the bigger Armagh team rarely missing an aerial catch while the winners' running off the ball was also impressive. While Moortown weren't that far behind, their attack didn't have the sharpness of their opponents, who could have had another goal or two with a bit of luck.
It was Moortown who were quickest off the mark with a brace of points from free-kicks by Conan McLernon in the opening four minutes, but man-of-the-match Rian O'Neill was quick into his stride with a point before hard-worker Colin O'Connor sliced through, but saw his shot well saved by 'keeper Michael Donnelly. O’Connor then levelled the game at two points each.
Callum Gallagher sent Moortown ahead before marksman Michael McCabe and Rian O'Neill lofted Cross scores but, on the quarter hour, midfield man James Devlin, who looked to be carrying an injury, levelled the cracker for the third time at 0-4 each.
Minutes later, a mistake in the Moortown defence let McCabe in for a goal and there could have been another major for the winners when Rian O'Neill ghosted through, but his pile-driver ricocheted off the crossbar. He made amends three minutes later with a point as Cross were on song. Not for long, however, as the Red Hands hit back hard with a snap goal by Sean Conway to be just one point adrift.
Four minutes from half-time came a decisive moment. Ronan O'Neill blazed through for a Cross goal and Moortown 'keeper Donnelly was black-carded, youth goalkeeper Tiernan McVeigh went in. He didn't disappoint as he brought off a few good saves from both high and low balls.
The winners led 2-9 to 1-4 10 minutes after the restart before Moortown got the first of only two second-half points, a free-kick from Conan McLernon. With dominance in midfield and great foot passing, the Armagh boys were masters for most of the rest of the game. McCabe was black-carded with Cian McConville in and they also introduced Shane McConville and Fergal Burns, all in the 51st minute.
McLernon hit another free for Moortown, but points by O'Connor and Oisin O'Neill wrapped up the 2-13 to 1-6 victory for the Rangers.
“It was a very good team performance," said Crossmaglen manager Kieran Donnelly.
"Individuals don't win you games. You do need players who, on certain days, step up to the mark but, as far as I am concerned, that was a team performance. It was a great advertisement for football. During the year, you see some matches at a higher level with packed defences, but that football was a joy to watch. Fair play to Moortown, they contributed well to a great game.
“We have a short turnaround, so we just have to get the lads' heads right for the final. We have won nothing yet,” Donnelly added.
Crossmaglen: J McAvoy; R McKeever, S Farrelly, A Smylie; D Cunning, C Dillon, C Donnelly; S Morris, O O'Neill (0-2,0-1 free); Rory O'Neill, C O'Connor (0-2), R O'Connor; M McCabe (1-4, 0-1 free), Rian O'Neill (1-4), J McKeever (0-1); Subs: Shane McConville for R O'Connor (51), F Burns for C Donnelly (51). BC: M McCabe, Cian McConville on (50).
Moortown: M Donnelly; E Quinn, T Corr, T Hurl; C Gallagher (0-1), R McLerrnon, R McGuigan; James Devlin (0-1), C McGuigan; Jamie Devlin, S Conway (1-0), J McGuigan; C McLernon (0-4, 0-3 frees), E McGuigan, R Conlon; Subs: E Devlin for James Devlin, inj (57). BC: M Devlin, T McVeigh in (26).
Referee: B Toland (Lamh Dhearg, Hannastown).