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A dozen titles as Rangers roll on

Crossmaglen Rgs 0-12 Pearse Og 0-6

By John Campbell

The status quo pertains in Armagh. Another page of orchard county championship history was written yesterday but there was no variation on what has been a constant theme for the past twelve years.

Crossmaglen Rangers, the reigning Ulster and All Ireland Club champions, proved as unstoppable as nightfall in making it a dozen domestic titles on the trot and in the process lacerating the Pearse Og dream of glory.

They may have endured uneasy passages, particularly in the first-half when they failed to score from play and found the Ogs' commando-style tackling more than a trifle claustrophobic, but eventually Donal Murtagh's side stamped their tattoo on the proceedings to such an extent that their canter over the finishing line became a formality. It was the Rangers ability to merge lace with iron, pace with power and style with steel that helped to extend their monarchy.

They simply don't engage in negotiation, either – concentration proved the gospel as they gathered convincing to eventually leave their Armagh city opponents in their slipstream.

And they might well have formally completed their business prior to the break, too, had it not been for three stunning saves from Ogs goalkeeper Ciaran McKinney who did more than most to delay a stay of execution on his side's title ambitions.

Even without hitting the target from play, the Rangers still managed to take an admittedly tenuous 0-4 to 0-3 advantage in at the break, Aaron Kernan's two clinical points from frees being completed by one from Oisin McConville and a sweetly-struck '45' from Tony Kernan.

Pearse Og tended to grind out their scores yet Conor Clarke's two superb points from play were the end-products of some clever ducking and weaving that helped him pick-pocket the Rangers defence while Gregory Loughran's 4th minute point from a '45' had proved the catalyst for the sustained Ogs work-rate that clearly rattled the champions.

But when Ronan Clarke, who had started in midfield, was summoned ashore in the 34th minute the Ogs woes began to mount ominously.

David McKenna forcibly stamped his imprint at midfield for Rangers and Aaron Kernan and John Donaldson began to spend as much time going forward as they did defending ensuring that the life-blood was effectively drained from the Ogs.

Rangers achieved this, too, despite being numerically challenged when substitute Johnny Murtagh was shown a red card.

By then, Aaron Kernan – one of four brothers in the side – along with McKenna and ageless substitute Cathal Short had whipped over the three points which gave Rangers their 0-7 to 0-4 lead, Loughran having pocketed his second free for the Ogs.

But any notion that Adrian Clarke's men might ultimately dislodge the Rangers from their throne was obliterated when the title-holders neatly stockpiled five points between the 45th and 57th minutes.

McConville launched the blitz from a free and Aaron Kernan piloted over his fourth point two minutes later before McConville underlined his majestic value to the side he has served so well by bisecting the posts from what appeared to be an impossible range and angle.

And when he and Stephen Kernan scored the last two Rangers points from play, these were merely cruel decorations from an Ogs viewpoint, J J Clarke's late score scarcely evoking a murmur from the now thoroughly chastened city team's followers.

Crossmaglen Rangers scorers: O McConville (0-4, 0-2 frees), A Kernan (0-4, all frees), T McKenna (0-1, '45'), S Kernan, D McKenna, C Short (0-1 each).

Pearse Og scorers: C Clarke (0-2), G Loughran (0-2, 0-1 '45', 0-1 free), S Moore, J J Clarke (0-1 each).

CROSSMAGLEN RANGERS: P Hearty; S Finnegan, T McEntee, P Kernan; A Kernan, J Donaldson, B McKeown; D McKenna, S Clarke; M McNamee, J McEntee, S Kernan; T Kernan, J Hanratty, O McConville. Substitutes: J Murtagh for Mcnamee (32 mins), C Short for Hanratty (35 mins). Yellow card: Donaldson (18 mins), Red card: Murtagh (38 mins).

PEARSE OG: C McKinney; G McCoy, G Barton, A Mallon; R Clarke, C Rafferty, D McAuley; C Hughes, S Clarke; G Loughran, B Gordon, C Clarke; Paul Duffy, S Moore, Pauric Duffy. Substitutes: M Toner for R Clarke (34 mins), D McManus for Gordon (41 mins), E Maguire for Paul Duffy (56 mins). Yellow cards: McCoy (14 mins), Loughran (49 mins), J J Clarke (51 mins).

Referee: Brendan Gorman

Belfast Telegraph


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