All-Ireland club SFC semi-final: Cross' master Crokes in classic

February 18, 2012

Crossmaglen's Danny O'Callaghan tackles Daithi Casey of Dr.Crokes during the AIB All-Ireland club SFC semi-final ©INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan
Crossmaglen overturned a seven-point deficit to beat Dr Crokes by 3-8 to 2-8 at Portlaoise.

Michael McNamee, Stephen Kernan (who was subsequently sent off) and top scorer Aaron Kernan (1-3) hit the net for the Armagh champions, who have written yet another chapter in their astonishing history with this fantastic success in wet and windy conditions at O'Moore Park.

Dr Crokes controlled most of the opening half but a late Crossmaglen rally had them in touch at the turnaround, 1-6 to 1-4. It had been 1-5 to 0-1 after 20 minutes but the Ulster champions finished the half very strongly.

There was a late change to Crossmaglen's starting XV with Kyle Brennan, wearing No. 18, starting at midfield in place of David McKenna. Dr Crokes mounted the first attack but Brian Looney's shot dropped into the arms of Armagh goalkeeper Paul Hearty. However, Colm Cooper fisted the Kerry standard bearers into a second-minute lead.

Within 60 seconds, Aaron Kernan had levelled the scores with a trademark left-footed free from the right after a foul on Brennan. In the fourth minute, at the end of a superb move, Jamie Doolan brilliantly gave his man the slip to deftly restore Crokes' advantage.

Looney stretched the gap and it was all one-way traffic as Andrew Kennelly's shot for goal flew inches wide. Cooper dropped a weak free in to Hearty and Tony Kernan thumped a '45' wide at the other end after the Crokes defence dealt with Jamie Clarke's Route One delivery. Oisin McConville was also off target and the Ulster giants trailed by 0-3 to 0-1 after ten minutes.

Cross' lost centre back Danny O'Callaghan to injury and Fionn Fitzgerald was the first man into the referee's notebook on 13 minutes. The challengers were unlucky when Eoin Brosnan struck the woodwork at the end of a lung-bursting surge. But Kennelly pointed superbly off his left boot as did Cooper (free) to make it a four-point game after 16 minutes.

Clearly rattled by his team's poor start, Tony McEntee threw McKenna into the fray with 13 minutes remaining in the first half. Crokes continued to dominate and Crossmaglen's frustration was evident as McConville saw yellow for a foul on Cooper.

On the stroke of the 20th minute, the Munster champions stormed further ahead when midfielder Ambrose O'Donovan's attempted point dropped short but was turned past Hearty to the net by Daithi Casey.

Rangers looked dead and buried but McConville dragged them back into contention when first of all he pointed and then showed wonderful vision to create a goal for full forward Michael McNamee, who deceived the Dr Crokes defence with a swivel before firing a low shot inside the near post - 1-5 to 1-2 after 23 minutes.

O'Donovan drilled over a sixth point for the Killarney men two minutes from the break, after eluding an attempted hit and Cross' made their third change before the interval. Aaron Kernan curled over an injury-time free to close the gap to three points and a late McConville free from the hands meant it was a two-point match at the short whistle.

McKenna halved the deficit when he arced over a lovely point in the second minute of the second half and Casey replied with a wide at the other end. Four minutes after the restart, Stephen Kernan has Cross in front for the first time: the Crokes defence seemed to have bottled up the attack but centre forward Kernan drove an excellent shot to the net via a post. Unlucky goalkeeper Alan Kelly had to be replaced as he whacked his head off the same post trying to make the save.

And a stylish Aaron Kernan free made it 2-6 to 1-6 after 37 minutes. Crossmaglen's tails were up now and Clarke clipped over an exquisite point to put them four ahead. Extraordinary stuff from the Ulster representatives, who had outscored the best club side in Munster by 2-6 to 0-1 between the 20th and 40th minutes!

There was a twist at the three-quarters stage when the leaders, who had temporarily lost McKenna to a head injury, were reduced to 14 men, with their goalscorer Kernan harshly dismissed by referee David Coldrick on the advice of one of his assistants.

On 50 minutes, Brosnan again carried the fight to the opposition as he burst forward with purpose to drill over a point, with conditions becoming increasingly wintry here in the midlands.

And the sides were level within 60 seconds: Looney's original shot hit the butt of the left post but substitute Chris Brady was on hand to roll the rebound to the net first time with his first touch: 2-7 apiece with eight minutes left and Dr Crokes had an extra man…

However, Cross' are nothing if not battlers and they immediately restored their three-point lead when Aaron Kernan stole forward to step inside the last man and fire the ball to the net through the legs of the replacement goalkeeper: 3-7 to 2-7 after 54 minutes!

Two minutes from the end, Aaron Cunningham sent over a sublime insurance point off the outside of his right boot for the 14 men.

Cooper lofted over a point from a free in the second minute of added time, knowing there would be four additional minutes. But Crokes ran out of time and Cross' held on for what most rank as one of the most famous victories in their astonishing history.

The holders will meet Garrycastle of Westmeath in the All-Ireland final on March 17th.

Crossmaglen Rangers: P Hearty; J Morgan, P Kernan, P McKeown; A Kernan (1-3), D O'Callaghan, S Finnegan; J Hanratty, K Brennan; T Kernan, S Kernan (1-0), A Cunningham (0-1); J Clarke (0-1), M McNamee (1-0), O McConville (0-2). Subs: B McKeown for O'Callaghan (12), D McKenna (0-1) for Finnegan (17), M Aherne for McNamee (29), K Carragher for Brennan (40), G Carragher for McConville (60).

Dr Crokes: A Kelly; J Payne, L Quinn, K McMahon; F Fitzgerald, E Brosnan (0-1), D O'Leary; A O'Donovan (0-1), J Buckley; A Kenneally (0-1), D Casey (1-0), B Looney (0-1); C Cooper (0-3), K O'Leary, J Doolan (0-1). Subs: C Brady (1-0) for Kenneally (51), S O'Neill for Looney (58).

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