Oisin McConville inspires Cross to glory
It's goals that win matches as the winners again proved conclusively on the day they lifted the Seamus McFerran trophy for the eighth time.
An AIB Ulster club championship decider that more than lived up to pre-match billing saw the Donegal champions make all the early running before a rejuvenated Cross, calling on their vast experience, eventually turned the tide in a storming second half.
What made their display all the more admirable was the fact they were down to 14-men after the red carding of Tony Kernan five minutes into the second half.
The contrast with the first half and the second 30 minutes couldn’t have been greater as the Donegal men were quickly into their stride often cutting holes in the Rangers’ rearguard and often leaving them grasping at shadows.
But then who else but Jamie Clarke stepped up to the mark when it seemed Glenties were marching towards a first Ulster club title.
Fifteeen minutes into the first half and with his side trailing, Michael McNamee prised open the opposing defence and Clarke celebrated his return from suspension with a priceless goal.
Not to be outdone Oisin McConville, relatively quiet in the first 30 minutes, came alive with a vengeance on the restart.
He conjured up a goal and three points to effectively mark the beginning of the end for a Glenties side that had earlier played like potential champions, repeatedly troubling Rangers with both their pace and intensity.
Naomh Conaill were threatening to run riot in the first half but the Rangers produced another typical backs-to-the-wall type display, a never-say-die attitude that has served them so well over the past two decades.
And Rangers’ Aaron Kernan was quick to acknowledge legend McConville’s contribution at the end of a hugely memorable Ulster club decider.
“There’ll never be another
Oisin. He’s a total one-off,” said Kernan.
“We’ve never seen the likes of him before in Armagh football and it’s a real honour and privilege for us to be playing alongside a character like him.
“The man never quits. He’s made us what we are in that we look up to him and trying our best to match the standard he sets for the rest of us.
“We’ve a fair bit to go before we can ever match his achievements, but what better role model could we have.”
Francie Bellew’s early introduction took many Cross fans by surprise, but once he settled into a defensive role he made a considerable contribution.
Jamie Clarke’s early point opened the scoring before Glenties, playing some inspired football, edged ahead only for the classy Clarke to swoop for the game’s opening goal.
But almost immediately points from Dara Gallagher, Johnny McLoone and Dermot Molloy had Glenties ahead again as the opposing defence came close to crumbling and by the interval Dara Gillespie’s point had them ahead again 0-7 to 1-3.
Two minutes into the second half Tony Kernan’s point levelled the match before he was red-carded for a challenge on Leo McLoone, but the game changed again almost immediately when Clarke picked out McConville and his goal offered Cross that much needed breathing space.
The force was now very much with the rejuvenated Cross with the losers managing only three second half points through Dara Molloy, Gallagher and Brendan McDwyer as Cross eased their way to an eighth Ulster title and a deserved victory.
Rangers scorers: O McConville 1-4, J Clarke 1-2, A Kernan, T Kernan, McNamee 0-1 each.
Glenties scorers: D Molloy 0-5, L McLoone 0-2, D Gallagher 0-2, B McDwyer 0-1.