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Ulster Council chiefs probe Crossmaglen clash with Coalisland

 

By John Campbell

Both Crossmaglen Rangers and Coalisland Fianna could suffer further sanctions if, as expected, the Ulster Council launches a detailed probe into last Saturday night's Ulster Club quarter-final between the sides at the Athletic Grounds, Armagh.

In what was a rugged, ill-tempered contest for the most part, referee Martin McNally dismissed two players from each side, brandished 12 yellow cards and at times encountered difficulty in retaining control of the game.

While the physical exchanges were feisty throughout, it is now believed that ongoing sledging marred what should have been a showpiece game.

Coalisland defender Eoghan Hampsey picked up a straight red card for what is thought to have been dissent, while forward Brian Toner, as well as Crossmaglen Rangers substitute Callum Cumiskey and full-forward Johnny Hanratty, were sent off for reckless second yellow card offences.

It has since come to light that referee McNally and his fellow officials were subjected to verbal abuse in a game which threatened to boil over on more than one occasion.

It is understood that McNally has submitted his report to the Ulster Council, which has already come up for discussion, although there has been no indication yet of any sanctions emanating from these discussions.

But it is difficult not to see sanctions being imposed and this could have serious repercussions for Crossmaglen Rangers in particular.

They are due to meet Donegal champions Gaoth Dobhair in the semi-final at Healy Park, Omagh on Sunday week and manager Donal Murtagh is still hopeful of having a full strength team on duty.

Now it would appear that it will be a case of wait and see in terms of discovering what punitive action will be taken.

Murtagh, indeed, had lost no time in highlighting what he felt were "silly mistakes" by his side in the game and had already urged a big improvement against Gaoth Dobhair.

The south Armagh outfit were Ulster kingpins in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2015 but were conspicuous by their absence from the provincial stage in 2016 and 2017.

Now the team is bidding to make up for what is regarded as lost time on the provincial front and Murtagh is keen to have his strongest possible side on duty against a Gaoth Dobhiar side that overcame Antrim champions Cargin in their quarter-final on Sunday.

Murtagh can take heart from the fact that Cian McConville and Tony Kernan, both of whom came on as substitutes against Coalisland, will now be pushing for starting places.

Meanwhile, Ballycran forward James Coyle has received the perfect boost ahead of Sunday's Ulster Senior Club Hurling Championship final against Cushendall now that he has become the latest winner of the Quinn Building Products Ulster GAA Writers Association monthly merit award.

Coyle's stunning contribution in his club's shock provincial semi-final win over fancied Slaughtneil projected him into the limelight, his two superbly-taken goals underpinning Ballycran's stellar performance.

But 28-year-old Coyle has no intention of resting on his laurels as his team eye what would be a first Ulster club title in 25 years.

"While I'm delighted to receive this award, I would dearly love to see Ballycran reach the top in Ulster and get into the All-Ireland Club Championship," states Coyle.

"There were 17 players in all who participated in our win over Slaughtneil and I was just lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time to grab a couple of goals.

"That win has given us extra confidence going into Sunday's final."

A Belfast-based softwear development engineer, Coyle got the nod for the award ahead of Scotstown's Conor McCarthy, Crossmaglen Rangers ace Rian O'Neill and free-scoring Castleblayney hurler Fergal Rafter.

"It's a big thrill for me to be honoured in this way by the writers and it provides me with a further incentive to do well in Sunday's Ulster final," adds Coyle.

Coyle's prize package included an engraved Belleek Living Vase, hand-crafted silver cuff links from Carlingford Design House and training gear from O'Neill's International Sportswear.

The presentation was made to Coyle by Quinn Building Products Sales and Marketing Director Seamus McMahon at Quinn's Corner Restaurant in Ballygawley.

Coyle will also receive two complimentary tickets to the writers' annual presentation dinner in the Killyhevlin Hotel, Enniskillen on Friday, February 1.

Belfast Telegraph

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