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O'Neill nets final place for Rangers in style

A spectacular two-goal blast from Oisin O'Neill in the 2-9 to 0-8 weekend semi-final win over Maghery did more than anything perhaps to serve a reminder that Crossmaglen Rangers have no intention of surrendering their Armagh Senior Football Championship title.

Rangers, for so long the high kings of Orchard County football, may have yielded ground when Maghery (2016) and Armagh Harps (2017) were permitted to take delivery of the title after Rangers had won nineteen titles from 1996 until they reclaimed last year when it was back to business as usual.

Now Kieran Donnelly's side have their sights fixed on back-to-back county crowns that could potentially trigger another period of protracted domination.

In offering substantial evidence that what they regard as the status quo should be continued, Rangers flashed a warning as early as the second minute when O'Neill swept the ball into the Maghery net thus underpinning his team's 1-4 to 0-1 interval advantage.

And just when Maghery looked as if they may finally get a toe-hold in the game as the second-half progressed, O'Neill thundered home an even more spectacular effort.

With the goalscorer's brother Rian, the impressive Cian McConville along with hard-working duo Alan Farrelly and Gavin Cumiskey contributing to the team's points haul, the Rangers authority was unquestionable despite the gallant efforts of the Forker brothers Aidan and Stefan for the losers.

Maghery showed on occasions that they still have flair and cohesion but they were unable to summon these qualities with any real degree of consistency.

And the fact that Rangers will now meet Ballymacnab in what is a repeat pairing from last year's final has already whipped up considerable enthusiasm within the Orchard County.

Ballymacnab, though, were forced to endure a rather more fraught passage into the decider as their neighbours Granemore proved feisty semi-final opponents in difficult conditions.

The swashbuckling Jack Grugan landed four first-half points as Bernie Murray's side swept into a 0-8 to 0-4 interval lead and they looked set to engage cruise control when they gained a more comfortable 0-11 to 0-6 advantage nearing the closing stages of the match.

But former Armagh ace Kieran Toner helped to spark a Granemore revival in which he joined Jason O'Neill, Eoin O'Neill and Liam Doyle in a points blitz that, thanks to a last gasp converted free from Doyle, allowed their side to have parity of esteem at 0-11 each by the end of normal time.

However, Ballymacnab, with Grugan still a potent threat, finished strongly with points from Pauric Gribben, Niall McKee and the irrepressible Grugan taking them to a 0-16 to 0-13 victory - and a place in the final.

Belfast Telegraph