GAA Football

Crossmaglen blitz Maghery to book their place in Armagh championship final

Ronan Fitzpatrick celebrates after scoring Crossmaglen's second goal last night. Picture: John Merry
Andy Watters at The Athletic Grounds

Armagh Senior Football Championship: Crossmaglen 3-15 Maghery 1-6

THE best form of defence is traditionally attack in Crossmaglen and their adventurous ways paid off spectacularly as they blitzed Maghery last night to book their place in the Orchard county final.

Maghery will have nightmares about their terrible start and, although they did what they could to bail out a ship that was already sinking after just five minutes, the loughshore men were never able to get a foothold in this game.

The match wasn’t a minute old when Jamie Clarke raced for a high ball from midfield. He fumbled under pressure from Oisin Lappin and Stephen Cusack picked up the loose ball. He attempted to pass it back to goalkeeper Eamon Cusack but his brother slipped and the ball bobbled into the Maghery net.

Cross immediately smelt blood and Aaron Kernan joined the attack to add a point and Caolan Finnegan also found the target for the revved-up men in black and amber to leave it 1-2 to no score inside four minutes.

Stephen Morris sent a right-footed effort high into the night sky and the Cross crowd roared as it soared over the bar. They roared louder still when McConville, bigger and stronger after a year with Armagh, caught Aidan Forker, who was trying to breathe some life into his side, with a full-blooded tackle.

It was all Cross. Rian O’Neill’s raking pass picked out Clarke close to the posts. He made a difficult catch look simple and popped a mark over the bar and then repeated the skill 30 seconds later, this time from a Callum Cumiskey pass.

While Maghery struggled to put two passes together, everything Cross touched turned to gold. Passes went to hand, breaks went their way and Ronan Fitzpatrick kicked another brilliant from distance. Rian O’Neill was his side’s sixth scorer when his shot sailed over the black spot.

It was 1-7 to no-score at the end of the first quarter.

Fitzpatrick’s textbook block gave Finnegan the chance to score his second and Maghery at last got off the mark when Oisin Cushnahan converted a free after Brian Fox had been fouled on 18 minutes.

O’Neill cancelled it five minutes later, after the helter-skelter action had lulled and Kevin Robinson managed Maghery’s first from play but then Cushnahan blazed wide when he should have added their second.

Cushnahan then lashed a dangerous ball into the Cross square but O’Neill was back and he cleared the danger but Maghery did at least manage the final score of the half.

The ever-combative Aidan Forker was taken down by Morris and Cushnahan swept over the free to leave it 1-9 to 0-3 at the break.

Aidan Forker moved up to full-forward for the start of the second half but Cross scrambled away a pass aimed towards him and their break ended with Clarke registering his first from play and the impressive McConville quickly added two more.

Maghery kept fighting and Ronan Lappin found the back of the Cross net after Fox had battled to win a long ball and Aidan Forker added a fine point from the left touchline.

But Cross shrugged it off. Clarke picked up the ball, soloed left and right and played a delightful ball for McConville to run on to and he whipped it over the bar.

Aidan Forker scored his second and the game became increasingly physical with men on both sides going down hurt off the ball but Cross killed the game off emphatically with brilliant team goal seven minutes’ from time.

Fitzpatrick, oozing potential in midfield, got it and there was still time for another. McConville lashed the ball into the roof of the net as Cross signed off with a brilliant flourish.

They’ll take a bit of stopping in the final.

Crossmaglen: M Murray; T O’Callaghan, C Dillon, T Duffy; A Kernan (0-1), J Morgan, P Hughes; S Morris (0-1), R Fitzpatrick (1-2); D O’Callaghan, C Cumiskey, C Finnegan (0-2); C McConville (1-3), J Clarke (0-3, 0-2 marks), R O’Neill (0-3, 0-2 frees)

Subs: C Crowley for O’Callaghan (42), S McConville for Finnegan (54), O Kiernan for O’Callaghan (57), O McKeown for Kernan (60), A Rushe for Clarke (40)

Maghery: E Cusack; B Haveron, O Lappin, G Campbell; K Nugent, A Forker (0-2), B Crealey; M Mackle, R Lappin (1-0); S Forker, B Fox, O Cushnahan (0-2 frees); K Robinson (0-1), B McIlmurray, S Cusack

Subs: C Forker (0-1) for Campbell (21), J Mackle for M Mackle (26), J Lavery for Cushnahan (46), P Forker for K Robinson (54), E Scullion for Nugent (57)

Yellow card: McIlmurray (25), O Lappin (48)

Referee: K Faloon

GAA Football