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It's time for us to show big step up, says Kernan

Crossmaglen 0-12 Coalisland 0-10

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One on one: Crossmaglen’s Paul Hughes tangles with Peter Herron of Coalisland

One on one: Crossmaglen’s Paul Hughes tangles with Peter Herron of Coalisland

One on one: Crossmaglen’s Paul Hughes tangles with Peter Herron of Coalisland

When Aaron Kernan was handed the captain's armband at the start of this year, he vowed to do his utmost to help the club recapture the glory in which Crossmaglen Rangers basked for two decades from the mid '90s.

He knew it wasn't going to be easy, of course. Not with a line-up containing a number of rookie players and a host of sides all too eager to claim what they would view as a significant scalp.

Today, though, the Rangers are beginning to focus strongly on their forthcoming semi-final in the Ulster club championship having already become fully reacquainted with the Armagh senior championship title but 34-year-old Kernan's feet remain firmly on the ground as he digests his team's escape to victory in this turbulent provincial quarter-final tie at the Athletic Grounds.

Four dismissals in all, a raft of yellow cards, tackling that on occasions bordered on the dangerous and a marked edge to the proceedings throughout have provided Kernan with ample food for thought.

His candour off the field, as always, complements his stylish artistry on it.

"I think both the old and the new players within the side have lessons to take from this game," says Kernan pointedly. "We have guys in there who are gaining in experience and obviously this was a tough battle for us all."

"We got over the line in the end but we can learn from the experience. The Ulster club championship is a tough arena with a number of good sides in there and we know that we have room for improvement. We will have to show this if we are to make further progress."

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"When we won the Armagh championship title last month it meant the end of two years in the wilderness for us but now that we are back on the Ulster stage we have to show that we are capable of competing with the best teams. Coalisland certainly made things very tough for us and we have to show a step up in performance if we want to get more success."

Kernan's leadership proved a stabilising influence within the side during those segments of the match when the temperature rose to boiling point with under-pressure referee Martin McNally dismissing Coalisland duo Brian Toner and Eoghan Hampsey in the first half before imposing a similar sanction on Rangers duo Callum Cumiskey and Johnny Hanratty after the break.

Crossmaglen had just managed to keep their noses in front at the interval (0-6 to 0-5), mainly through the scoring prowess of Rian O'Neill who was on target on three occasions, with Paddy McNeice embellishing the visitors' confidence with four points from frees.

The exchanges were never less than feisty, the pace unrelenting and the work ethic from both sides ensuring that the momentum was retained until the final whistle.

When outstanding skipper Stephen McNally, who led by superb example, and the ubiquitous McNeice eased the Tyrone champions into a 0-7 to 0-6 lead early in the second half, their fortunes had been revitalised, but that was until the imposing Rian O'Neill, who scored seven points in all, was joined by his brother Oisin in providing the turbo-power that saw Rangers finish with a flourish.

With lively substitute Cian McConville providing a fresh threat to the Coalisland defence and Paul Hughes rampaging down the left flank at regular intervals, Crossmaglen's attacking machinery suddenly began to operate at full throttle.

Fittingly, perhaps, it was the immensely gifted O'Neill duo, nephews of Rangers legend Oisin McConville, who were to apply the coup de grace.

They appeared to gain in energy and commitment as the match progressed and they landed team's last two points to set the seal on a win that, on this occasion, had its origins rather more in combative defiance than in silken skills.

Crossmaglen Rangers: R Kelly, A Rushe, G Carragher, A Smylie; A Kernan, J Morgan, P Hughes; S Morris 0-1, O O'Neill 0-2; J McKeever 0-1, R O'Neill 0-7, (2f, 1'45), P Stuttard; M McNamee 0-1, J Hanratty, K Carragher Subs: C Cumiskey for Stuttard (6 mins), C McConville for McNamee (half-time), T Kernan for McKeever (47).

Coalisland Fianna: P Donnelly; D Fee, P Hampsey, E Hampsey; M McKernan, S McNally 0-1, N Kerr; J Carberry, P Kane; P Herron, C O'Hagan, B Toner; B Leonard 0-1, P McNiece 0-8( 8f), P McGahan. Subs: T Quinn for McGahan (45) mins; C Quinn for Leonard (53).

  Referee: Martin McNally (Monaghan).


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