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Crossmaglen Rangers through to semi-finals

Crossmaglen 0-13 St Patrick's 0-6

When St Patrick’s won the Fermanagh senior football championship title for the first time a few weeks ago, they naturally relished the prospect of making their debut in the prestigious AIB Ulster Club Championship.

What they had not bargained for, though, was being paired with reigning provincial champions Crossmaglen Rangers at the quarter-final stage – and having to face Donal Murtagh’s seasoned warriors without five of their first-choice players.

This ultimately proved an insurmountable handicap yesterday on the immaculate new Oliver Plunkett Park surface, even if the Ernesiders’ generous measure of resilience, commitment and skill ensured that the Rangers had to remain on their toes right to the finish.

Indeed, had lady luck smiled on St Patrick’s when first Michael McGrade and then Eamonn Maguire saw shots stopped on the goal line in the closing stages – there was even a strong suspicion that the former’s effort had actually crossed the line – then the outcome might have been rather different.

As it was, though, St Patrick’s erred on the side of generosity to such an extent in the second quarter that Rangers helped themselves to seven unanswered points

to lay the basis for their passage into next Sunday’s semi-final against Donegal champions St Eunan’s.

The Fermanagh representatives subsequently summoned on fresh reserves of stamina and unquenchable spirit to restrict their hosts to just one point from play in the second period but by then they found themselves immersed in a damage limitation exercise.

It was after setting out their stall robustly in the first quarter that St Patrick’s lost their way prior to the break when the McEtee twins, John and Tony, in tandem with David McKenna controlled the middle sector to such an extent that the points flowed freely, Martin Ahern, Oisin McConville and McKenna each grabbing two as Rangers powered into a seemingly unassailable 0-10 to 0-2 interval lead.

But if they exuded a considerable measure of authority up until then, Crossmaglen were reined in for much of the second half, St Patrick’s offering a fusion of stout defence and feisty breakaways that threatened their opponents’ security.

For all their wholehearted endeavour, though – and no players contributed more than Shane McDermott, Eamonn Maguie, Ronan McCaffrey, Patrick Grue and Jason Cadden throughout – the Erne county champions could not pierce the formidable Rangers rearguard often enough.

Gary Maguire’s early second-half point lit a beacon of hope and further scores from Eamonn Maguire and Patrick Cadden also fired optimism but Rangers closed ranks and countered their visitors’ renaissance with points from a McConville free and sub Kyle Carragher to breast the tape first with some degree of comfort.

But with next Sunday’s opponents St Eunan’s, the Donegal champions, and both Ballinderry and Cavan Gaels still remaining in the frame for the provincial crown, Rangers know that their own definitive report from yesterday’s contest will surely read – must do better.

CROSSMAGLEN RANGERS: P Hearty; R Carragher, F Bellew, P McKeown; A Kernan (0-3, 0-2 frees), J Donaldson (capt), P Kernan; T McEntee, D McKenna (0-2); M McNamee, J McEntee, M Ahern (0-2); T Kernan (0-2), C Short, O McConville (0-3, 0-2 frees). Subs: J Clarke for Ahern (half-time), S Kernan for McNamee, J Murtagh for T Kernan (both 46 mins), R Kelly for Short (55 mins), K Carragher for McConville (55 mins).

St PATRICK’S: P Quaile; M Collins, R McCaffrey, B O’Reilly; P Grue, J McGovrn, M O’Reilly; S McDermott, R Daly; P Cadden, C O’Reilly, G Maguire (0-1); J Cadden, E Maguire (0-3, 0-1 free), F O’Reilly (capt). Subs: M McGrade for Collins (45 mins). Yellow cards: J Cadden 48 mins, Grue 50 mins.

Referee: Brian Crowe (Cavan).

Belfast Telegraph

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