Crossmaglen Rangers 2-10 Errigal Ciaran 0-10
Ulster Senior semi-final
Hoodoo? What hoodoo? After this semi-final, Crossmaglen co-manager Tony McEntee emphatically stated that the record Errigal Ciaran held over the men from south Armagh had nothing to do with their preparations.
rangers bang on
TARGET for title
errigal’s impressive record against champions COUNTS FOR LITTLE as cross REACH another finalBack of net: Jamie Clarke celebrates after scoring a goal for Crossmaglen
Be that as it may, to beat Errigal was as important as it will be to beat Kilcoo in the Ulster final on December 2 — just another step along the path to immortality.
They met a game challenge in their old adversaries in front of a crowd of 5,689.
As Mickey Harte had warmly reminisced a couple of weeks ago, Errigal's win in Tyrone had re-established a feeling of ‘on the road again’.
As their large following made their way through Monaghan town and onto Clones blowing airhorns, it certainly felt like that.
Throw in a bit of bodhran-banging in the stand, and this game was certainly played against a nostalgic backdrop.
But there were subtle differences. Paul Hearty's absence meant it was the first Championship game he missed for Cross since the 1996 All-Ireland final. He had been laid up in bed all week with laryngitis.
The only link to the game Cross teams of the past was the maestro himself, Oisin McConville. While the rest of them seem unperturbed by previous meetings, McConville spent a good portion of the game rousing team-mates, following the ball out to the half-forward line, foraging for the odd break.
Enjoying his football, but with a manic need to win all the same.
In a game packed with incident, 17 seconds was on the clock when Jamie Clarke hit the post.
The move originated from a long ball and Cross would continue to stick to their principles of keeping a three-man inside line, while Stephen Kernan would spray it around.
One such ball from Kernan on three minutes found Paul McKeown up from corner back, who was hauled down with a penalty in the offing. Awarded a free in, McConville tapped over.
Errigal had drafted in Paul Quinn — possessor of an All-Ireland medal from 2003 lest we forget — as an extra defender to sweep on the half-back line.
Just as they did against St Eunan's, McEntee (pictured) acted decisively, sending Martin Aherne into forward territory to pick up the loose man.
It made for an enthralling first half, but just as Errigal looked to have a firm handle on things, along came the hammer blow.
Stephen Kernan kicked the ball 60 yards to an exposed Errigal defence, Jamie Clarke gathered, wriggled free, and thumped to the net.
A minute later, Tony Kernan kicked the delivery, and Clarke held off heavy challenges from Aidan McCrory to slot over.
Still, Errigal managed to have enough in the bank to be a point ahead at half-time.
After taking ages to come back out for second half, they might have wished they stayed in the bunker. It took them 22 minutes of the second half to get their next score, a neat effort from Ronan McRory.
During that period Errigal barely got out of their own half. When they did, a hopeful ball from Davey Harte to Brian Horisk was dealt with, delivered down the field and slotted over by McConville, as if punishment for an impudent act.
After McRory's point, they were only two adrift. A daring sequence of kick-passes between Stephen Kernan and Jamie Clarke put Johnny Hanratty through, who blasted at John Devine who came out well.
Errigal thought they had a reprieve, but a minute later, a ball kicked downfield by Aaron Kernan was helped onto David McKenna, who sealed the game with the second goal.
After that, there was nothing else to do but keep an eye on the score from the Athletic Grounds.
CROSSMAGLEN RANGERS: K McKeown; P Hughes (0-1), P Kernan, P McKeown; A Kernan (0-1, 1f), J Morgan, M Aherne (R Finnegan, 64m); J Hanratty, D McKenna (capt) 1-0; K Carragher (C Cumiskey, 58m), S Kernan, T Kernan (0-1); J Clarke (1-1) (P Grant, 63m), A Cunningham (M McNamee, 29m), O McConville (0-5, 4f) (K Brennan, 58m).
ERRIGAL CIARAN: J Devine; A McCrory, M McRory, C Quinn; P Quinn (J, Kelly, 53m), P Harte (0-1), D Harte; Cormac McGinley, E McGinley (capt); Ciaran McGinley (0-1), T Canavan (0-3, 2f), S Tierney; D Canavan (0-3, 2f), B Horisk, R McRory (0-2).
Referee: Joe McQuillan (Cavan).