Rangers set for stiff final examination
Crossmaglen Rangers' provincial title will be under serious threat when they face Antrim champions St. Galls in Sunday's AIB Ulster Club championship decider in Newry.
Both are there very much on merit, but it's the holders who have come the most difficult route beating both Clontibret and Dromore by the minimum margin.
The Belfast men accounted for both Newtownbutler and Glenullin without ever being under the same level of pressure.
Against Glenullin in the semi-final they could have been in trouble after having Sean Burke sent off after picking up a second yellow card, but before their opponents could capitalise they had the impressive Ruairi Boyle red-carded within two minutes of the restart.
All-Star Paddy Bradley scored four of his side's seven points, but suffered from a lack of adequate support while the Antrim champions were guilty of 19 wides, which on another day could prove very costly.
Over the years Rangers always seem to have the knack of unleashing new heroes and in beating Dromore in an epic semi-final, Martin Aheane bailed them out when they were in danger of being submerged by Dromore's relentless pressure.
Ahearne, a young man with Kerry blood in his veins conjured up two first half goals on a day the team didn't play like champions.
"I was just glad that I was able to make some contribution, but the real stars were the McEntee twins, John and Tony as well as Tony Kernan.
" There's nobody sure of their place on this team so you can't sit back on your laurels or you won't be playing the next day, he said.
As if to prove the point Ahearne was himself replaced before the finish and highly-rated midfielder David McKenna suffered a similar fate and it was only when Tony McEntee moved to mid-field midway through the second half that Cross began to enjoy some degree of parity in that area.
The reality is that the defending champions never adequately replaced the suspended John Donaldson and it has to be a concern that he will also miss the final because of suspension, having been red carded in the quarter-final victory over Monaghan champions Clontibret.
If Cross were the dominant force of the first half then it was the Tyrone champions who bossed the second half with Tyrone ace Ryan McMenamin driving forward from defence to land two splendidly taken points.
Make no mistake this Dromore team will be back on the provincial stage and manager Noel McGinn has every reason to be proud of the entire squad and they were a credit to Tyrone football.