Crossmaglen reign supreme in Ulster minor tournament
Kukri Sports Ulster Club Minor Football Tournament final:
Crossmaglen Rangers (Armagh) 4-12 St Eunan’s, Letterkenny (Donegal) 1-6
MAYBE the scoreline is a bit harsh on St Eunan’s, but there is no doubting that Crossmaglen Rangers thoroughly deserved to win yesterday’s Kukri Sports Ulster Club Minor Football Tournament 33rd final at St Paul’s in Belfast.
The Armagh champions played to suit the rainy conditions with direct football the best choice.
Crossmaglen were bigger and stronger than their opponents who really missed the presence of the injured Rory Carr in the middle of the park. It’s a known fact that one player doesn’t win a game but the tall Carr would have made a huge difference to St Eunan’s as they lost out the midfield battle for most of the game.
Oisin O’Neill, who won the Ann Marie Donnelly Memorial Trophy as player of the final, and Stephen Morris controlled a large slice of the action there, giving their forwards a plentiful supply of the ball which they used to good effect.
Despite St Eunan’s having a decent amount of possession, in the opening quarter, it was Crossmaglen who led 0-4 to 0-0 at that stage.
Plenty of fast football was played by both teams but it wasn’t until the 17th minute that the Donegal representatives raised a flag.
Niall O’Donnell, their best attacker, threaded the ball through to hard-working half-back Brian MacIntyre and he shot home. However, that goal was wiped out within a minute when Michael McCabe found the net at the other end and Ruairi O’Neill added a point, to leave the Armagh team 1-5 to 1-0 ahead on 20 minutes.
O’Donnell tapped over the first free-kick of the afternoon two minutes later before Ruairi and Oisin O’Neill fired over points from midfield, in the diagonal breeze, to offset scores by Oisin O’Boyle and O’Donnell (both frees).
A real killer blow to Letterkenny came four minutes into injury time. Goalkeeper Matthew Gallagher soared high to push away a cross but collided with two Crossmaglen players with a penalty kick awarded.
Oisin O’Neill blasted the ball home to leave his team 2-7 to 1-4 ahead at the break.
Cross opened the second half with a brace of points and, by the 48th minute, they had added two more as the game drifted away from St Eunan’s, who had a mini revival with two points from substitute Evan McCrory but that was as good as it got for the Donegal side.
A goalmouth-bound ball fell at the feet of McCabe who knocked it over the line for his second goal on 57 minutes and there was no way back for Letterkenny who also lost O’Donnell on a black card on the hour.
“The commitment of these young players cannot be questioned and they answered a number of questions today,” said Crossmaglen manager Kieran Donnelly.
“We came to prove a point and we did that. Just like our seniors, the lads play a lot of kick passing, which takes a lot of practice and, no doubt, a number of these players will be heard of in the future.
“With so many of them involved in the overall senior training panel, they learned a lot and they will now push the established senior players for places on the senior team.
“The support that we have got from the seniors and the support from the other members of the minor management, Martin Califf and Neil Hughes, has been terrific and has played a major part in this victory.”
This was the referee Martin McErlane final refereeing occasion as he has decided to retire.
Crossmaglen: J McEvoy; R McKeever, S Farrelly, A Smylie; D Cunningham (0-1), C Dillon, C Donnelly; S Morris (0-1), O O’Neill (1-3, 1-0 penalty, 0-1 free); R O’Neill (0-3), C O’Connor (0-1), J McKeever; M McCabe (2-1), R O’Neill (0-1), R O’Connor.
Subs: S McConville (1-1) for R O’Connor (44), F Burns for Dillon (49), O Keenan for R O’Neill (53), P Short for Donnelly (57).
Letterkenny: M Gallagher; C Moore, D McWalters, S Halvey; B McIntyre (1-0), D Toal, K Kealey; O Toal, K Grant; O O’Boyle (0-1 free), N O’Donnell (0-3, 0-2 frees), C Maloney; O McGinley, D McCrory, J Whelan.
Subs: E McCrory (0-2) for Whelan (46), P McAleer for Maloney (57), G Maguire for Moore (59). Black card: N O’Donnell (60) replaced by D Hamilton.