Race row casts shadow as Crossmaglen Rangers secure 10th title
Ulster Club Football Final
Crossmaglen Rangers 3-9 Kilcoo 1-9: Ulster title number 10 for Crossmaglen and captain David McKenna proclaimed “two down, one to go” as the crusade continues to win three All-Ireland titles in succession.
Unfortunately though, this game at the Athletic Grounds in Armagh will have the stigma of a recurring menace in society, which has reared its head in sport too often in recent times.
After the match, Crossmaglen's talented forward Aaron Cunningham stated he had been the victim of racist abuse.
He was so upset about it, he said, that he wanted it to go on the record.
The description of the abuse was, as ever in these instances, appalling.
In dealing with the matter after the match, Crossmaglen Rangers chairman Tony Brady said the club would release a statement on Tuesday.
Kilcoo chairman Terry O'Hanlon said he wished to make no comment on it.
“I don't want to let it overshadow what has been a good game and 10th title for us. Three-in-a-row and number five for myself, but I just feel that it has to be said, because whatever was said has no place on a football pitch,” said a clearly upset Cunningham |outside the dressing rooms.
In the wake of Wexford dual star Lee Chin calling for specific penalties for racist abuse and condemnation from GAA president Liam O'Neill, this story will take some time to play out.
On to the football.
Kilcoo Manager Jim McCorry had experimented with adventures in mind games the day before, when newspaper reports stated his belief that Crossmaglen indulge in intimidation.
Their approach to the mental side was bold, but they were also bolstered by the work they have done with renowned psychologist Dr John Kremer this season.
He also intimated that Joe McQuillan was an experienced referee and would not let himself be cowed into making rash |decisions.
Some wonder then what he made of McQuillan blowing the whistle on three minutes to award Cross a penalty.
Jamie Clarke had just flicked a lovely pass to Tony Kernan, who lost his grip on the ball and as it was trickling wide, there was a hint of contact between the Cross forward and Gerard McEvoy.
Penalty, said McQuillan. Yellow card to McEvoy into the |bargain.
Goalkeeper Stephen Kane got his fingers to Oisin McConville's spot-kick, but the force was enough to carry it over the line.
Game over, said the crowd.
Was it a penalty? Too tough a call. If it happened further out the field, it would have been a free, so why should it have been any different in the area?
In any case, Kilcoo can still make a case for sympathy.
But that's a familiar story to Crossmaglen opposition.
Everyone has sad stories. Burren had one last year, so had Garrycastle.
Truth is against Cross, you have to eat your dinner when it's hot.
A minute later, Aaron Kernan popped up with another goal.
From then on, the evening carried an air of inevitability, even when Kilcoo had reeled the lead back to three points with 13 minutes left.
Cross even sealed the game with a late goal, Oisin McConville unselfishly squaring the ball to leave late substitute Kyle Brennan with a score to dine out on forever.
Typical Oisin. Typical Cross.
Cross had had to work hard to secure a six-point win, but they can now look forward to an All-Ireland semi-final against St Brigid's.
Few would doubt their ability to go all the way again.
CROSSMAGLEN: P Hearty; P Hughes (R Finnegan, 61m), P Kernan (D O'Callaghan, 46m), P McKeown; A Kernan (1-1, 1f), J Morgan, M Aherne (0-1); J Hanratty, D McKenna (capt); A Cunningham (0-1) (K Brennan, (1-0) 59m), S Kernan (0-2) (M McNamee, 31m), T Kernan (0-1); J Clarke, K Carragher 0-1 (C Cumiskey, 53m), O McConville (1-2, 1-0 penalty, 2f). Yellow cards: Morgan (31m), Hanratty (38m), Clarke (51m, 59m). Red cards: Clarke (59m), McNamee (44m)
KILCOO: S Kane; N Branagan, D Kane (0-1) (S Devlin, 59m), D Branagan; S O'Hanlon, A Branagan, Gerard McEvoy; P Greenan, R Johnston (0-1); J Johnston (F McGreevy, 53m), P Devlin (0-3, 3f), D O'Hanlon (0-4, 3f); C Laverty, A Devlin (1-0) (J McClean, 53m), Gary McEvoy (capt). Yellow cards: Gerard McEvoy (3m), Greenan (40m).
Referee: Joe McQuillan (Cavan).