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Rangers crank up the power to taste joy again as 'Nab collapse

Crossmaglen Rangers 2-18 Ballymacnab 2-9

Party time: Crossmaglen Rangers celebrate their victory over Ballymacnab at the Athletic Grounds yesterday
Party time: Crossmaglen Rangers celebrate their victory over Ballymacnab at the Athletic Grounds yesterday
John Campbell

By John Campbell

The contrasting fortunes which can often accompany sport have seldom been more vividly illustrated than they were at the Athletic Grounds, Armagh yesterday.

Picture the scene. Ballymacnab had sailed serenely through the first-half of the senior football championship final against Armagh and in the process built up a well-deserved 1-6 to 0-6 interval lead.

But just as they prepared to attempt to take a giant step into the history books by landing their first county crown, they found themselves in the eye of a hurricane that not only demolished their aspirations but provided compelling evidence that another protracted period of Crossmaglen Rangers dominance could be in the office.

Rangers skipper Aaron Kernan has remained the essence of modesty during his 20-year spell with the side but there was not only a hint of quiet satisfaction with a job well done yesterday but the belief that the future is particularly bright.

"I thought we were off the pace in the first-half and we were sleep-walking at times but our management addressed what they felt were some issues at half-time and we never looked back," said Kernan. "I thought that the young guys in our side stood up to the mark on this occasion and they certainly offer us great hope for the future."

Fuelled by a towering performance from full-forward Jack Grugan who scored 1-6 in all, Ballymacnab had swept into a 1-6 to 0-6 interval lead, Gavin McParland's 16th-minute goal bolstering their spirited first-half display.

But that was as good as it got for the challengers. Rangers took total command in the second period inspired by the towering O'Neill brothers Oisin and Rian.

The former scored 1-6 while the latter pulled the strings effectively in an attack which flourished throughout the second-half.

As the Ballymacnab defence caved in, Crossmaglen pocketed 1-9 without response to leave their opponents, so confident and adventurous, wallowing in their slipstream.

With Oisin O'Neill leading a relentless siege - he scored 1-5 in all - Rangers picked off points at will notching nine on the bounce between the 39th and 48th minutes before Colin O'Connor swept home their first goal in the 56th minute to remove any doubt that the champions were on top of their game.

Ballymacnab, who were restricted to very occasional forays into enemy territory in the second-half as Rangers exerted their iron grip on proceedings, may have gained a ration of comfort when Jack Grugan grabbed their second goal.

But in the end they simply had no answer for Rangers' surge of power.

With the Grugan brothers more shackled and Stephen Morris and Alan Farrelly dominant at midfield, Ballymacnab had no answer to their opponents' ferocious onslaught.

By the time O'Neill crashed in the second Rangers goal in added time, the famed black and amber Rangers ribbons were already on the trophy.

Crossmaglen Rangers scorers: O O'Neill 1-5 (3f), C O'Connor 1-1, P Hughes 0-2 C Cumiskey, S Morris, R O'Neill, C McConville 0-2 each, M Boyce, A Farrelly 0-1 each.

Ballymacnab scorers: J Grugan 1-6 (0-2 f), G McParland 1-0, R Grugan 0-2, P Meegan 0-1.

Crossmaglen Rangers: T McConville; P Hughes, R Kelly, C Crowley; A Kernan, C Cumiskey, G Carragher; S Morris, A Farrelly; J McKeever, O O'Neill, C O'Connor; M Boyce, R O'Neill, C McConville. Subs: K Carragher for McKeever (39), T Kernan for Boyce (48), J Hanratty for Morris (60), S Finnegan for G Carragher (60).

Ballymacnab: C McGivern; C Loughran, R Kennedy, S Lynch; M Beagan, R Gribben, J Gray; C Gribben, P Gribben; P Meegan, B McCone, O McGivern; R Grugan, J Grugan, G McParland. Subs: R Watters for McGivern (45), N McKee for Meegan (52).

Referee: Jake Magill (Down).

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