Club SFC semi: Cross battle past Kilmacud

February 27, 2011
Crossmaglen Rangers are back in yet another AIB All-Ireland club SFC final after victory over Kilmacud Crokes in a titanic tussle at Pairc Tailteann.

The winners, who were six points down at half time, finished with fourteen men while Leinster champions Kilmacud were down to 13 by the final whistle.

On another day, however, all three red cards shown by referee Maurice Condon could have been avoided, with the dismissed players - Kevin Nolan and Brian McGrath of Crokes and Crossmaglen's Danny O'Callaghan - unlucky to make an early exit.

Kilmacud could have every reason to feel aggrieved with the Waterford official, with the departures of full back Nolan and centre back McGrath robbing them of their principal defensive presences.

With midfielder Paddy Duggan limping off through injury in the first half, it meant the Dubliners played much of the game without three of their spine.

The red cards apart, it was a hugely entertaining encounter with Kilmacud twice leading by six points in the first half before being pegged back by the Armagh men.

Liam Og O hEineachain opened the scoring in the first attack of the game and four points from Brian Kavanagh, from play and frees, and another score from up and coming midfielder Craig Dias gave Kilmacud a 0-6 to 0-0 lead.

During that spell, captain Pat Burke was almost unstoppable at corner forward, winning copious possession in the forward line to play a part in a host of Kilmacud scores.

Crossmaglen finally settled with frees from Aaron Kernan and Oisin McConville getting them off the mark before an exceptional point from Tony Kernan.

The first turning point arrived after 20 minutes when full back Nolan picked up his second booking. If the first yellow, for a foul on Stephen Kernan, looked deserved, the second appeared extremely harsh.

Aaron Kernan pointed the free to leave just one in it (0-6 to 0-5) and the pendulum appeared to have swung Crossmaglen's way.

However, Kilmacud responded brilliantly before half-time with two points from Kavanagh before Burke set up Dias for the game's first goal, the Dublin U21 midfielder firing the loose ball to the top corner after Paul Hearty had blocked his initial effort.

That left it 1-8 to 0-5 at the interval, although referee Condon was roundly jeered at the break after blowing for half-time with Crossmaglen in a hugely promising position which looked likely to yield at least a goalscoring opportunity.

Despite their numerical advantage, Cross were up against it with half an hour left, six points down and playing into a stiffening breeze.

But they haven't won four All-Ireland club titles without a sense of dogged determination and it was no surprise that they would come out fighting after the break, their resilience epitomised by Tony Kernan at full back who was getting to grips with the challenge posed by Kavanagh.

Jamie Clarke chipped a fine score from a tight angle and the Armagh forward got in behind Cian O'Sullivan for a goal chance. His initial shot was blocked on the line by Ross O'Carroll but Francis Hanratty was on hand to palm the bouncing ball to the unguarded net. Two points in it, and game on.

Dias struck another point at the other end to put Crokes three in front but then came a disastrous moment for the Dubliners' keeper, David Nestor, who dropped an Oisin McConville free into the grateful arms of Jamie Clarke and the sides were level. In Nestor's defence, the ball dropped through the glare of a strong sun, but that will be little consolation to him after what was one of the game's key moments.

Moments later, it went from bad to worse for Kilmacud with Brian McGrath sent off for flicking out a boot at Aaron Kernan in the middle of the field. It looked more like an off the ball trip than a kick, but Condon felt it was worthy of a second red card.

The card party continued within seconds, and again it was a strange decision. Rory O'Carroll, the Dublin player who has returned from France in recent weeks, was introduced for Kilmacud and after a couple of harmless skirmishes, Danny O'Callaghan was sent off for an innocuous tussle.

When the dust settled, the sides were still level but Kilmacud soon found themselves two in front again, sub Mark Vaughan chipping an exceptional score from an acute angle and Kavanagh pointing another free for his sixth point of the game.

Cross were not to be denied, however, and Johnny Hanratty's booming point, followed by McConville's routine free, had them level. Then, with the hour approaching, their strength in depth was demonstrated in ample terms, with Kyle Carragher fisting a point to give them the lead for the first time in the game and Martin Aherne scoring twice in two minutes to leave three in it and Kilmacud buried.

They launched a couple of attacks before the finish in search of the goal that would save their bacon but the sum total of their efforts was a Kavanagh free in injury time and Cross march on to a St Patrick's Day decider against Roscommon's St Brigid's.

Crossmaglen Rangers: P Hearty; P McKeown, P Kernan, J Morgan; A Kernan (0-3, 0-3 frees), D O'Callaghan, S Finnegan; J Hanratty D McKenna; J Clarke (1-1), A Cunningham, F Hanratty (1-0); T Kernan (0-1), S Kernan, O McConville (0-3, 0-3 frees). Subs: J McEntee for D McKenna (17 mins), K Carragher (0-1) for A Cunningham (53 mins), M Aherne (0-2) for S Finnegan (55 mins), F Bellew for J Clarke (60 mins).

Kilmacud Crokes: D Nestor; Ross O'Carroll, K Nolan, C Lamb; C O'Sullivan, B McGrath, R Ryan; P Duggan, C Dias (1-2); L Óg Ó hÉineacháin (0-1), D Kelleher (0-1), A Morrissey; P Burke, B Kavanagh (0-7, 0-5 frees), M Coughlan. Subs : B Hanamy for Duggan (20 mins), M Vaughan (0-1) for Coughlan (41 mins), Rory O'Carroll for Kelleher (43 mins), B O'Rorke for Morrissey (54 mins), E Culligan for C O'Sullivan (57 mins).

Referee: M Condon (Waterford).

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