Cross cruise 45th Armagh title

Ballymacnab 2-9 Crossmaglen 2-18

Different year, same result. Crossmaglen once again asserted their dominance on the Armagh club scene with a devastating nine point victory over Ballymacnab. With 20 minutes remaining Ballymacnab were in prime position, five points ahead and keeping Cross at bay, but then the Rangers turned on the style and struck 2-9 in a dominant final quarter to ensure the Gerry Fegan cup headed towards South Armagh once again.

The first half consisted of some early shadow boxing with neither team giving an indication of which way the result would go. Ballymacnab’s 16th minute goal put them in the driving seat and they held the lead until the 46th minute and once Cross got on level terms the game was all one way traffic.

Oisin O’Neill gave a heroic performance for the men in black and amber and it was O’Neill who fittingly opened and closed the scoring. The centre half forward struck in the second minute of the game before Jack Grugan responded for The Round Towers with a pointed free 60 seconds later.

Rory Grugan gave Ballymacnab the lead prior to Cian McConville stroking over a free kick to level the game once more. Colin O’Connor and Oisin O’Neill were both on target to give The Rangers a two point advantage but Paul Meegan ensured Ballymacnab were still in touch and his score cut the deficit to one.

The next score was an exceptional piece of play from Ballymacnab’s full forward duo with Jack Grugan beautifully playing a cross-field pass with the outside of his left foot and the ball fell straight into the lap of Gavin McParland. McParland still had it all to do and he slid the ball beneath the keeper and raised the first green flag of the day.

The next score was crucial, and it came the way of Ballymacnab once again with Grugan hitting the target this time from the dead ball. Rian O’Neill halted the Ballymacnab momentum but not for long as the Grugan brothers, Rory and Jack hit a score each just before the interval.

The final score of the half came for Crossmaglen with Cian McConville once again sending the ball between the posts for his second point of the game. This score meant that the goal was the difference between the sides when the referee sounded the short whistle with Ballymacnab in front 1-6 to 0-6.

Jack Grugan sent Ballymacnab four clear with the opening point of the second period while Crossmaglen struck three points in quick succession to bring them right back into the game. Rian O’Neill cancelled out Grugan’s score while Stephen Morris hit two points in a row to bring the margin back to one.

Just as Cross seemed to be reeling Ballymacnab back in, Jack Grugan palmed home a lofty ball into the square from his brother Rory while Jack also stroked over the next score and it seemed that Ballymacnab had done what others had failed to do on county final day, they had cracked the Crossmaglen code, all they had to do was hold on to their winning margin and the trophy was theirs.

But just as all the other teams down through the years have learnt, that’s easier said than done. Crossmaglen responded in empathic fashion, controlling the Ballymacnab kick outs and making hay with the possession they had. Oisin O’Neill hit two frees before Paul Hughes stormed forward to score his first point.

Oisin O’Neill was again on target from a free kick while midfielder Alan Farrelly and Callum Cumiskey both ventured forward to get in on the action. Hughes once again split the posts while Mel Boyce and Cumiskey both raised white flags to continue Crossmaglen’s dominating period.

Then came the crucial score that ended the game as a contest when Colin O’Connor fired the ball into the corner of the net. Jack Grugan got a point while Oisin O’Neill capped off a near perfect performance with a goal in the final minute. Crossmaglen were deservingly crowned champions but the score line didn’t reflect Ballymacnab’s performance.

Ballymacnab Scorers: Jack Grugan (1-6), Gavin McParland (1-0), Rory Grugan (0-2), Paul Meegan (0-1).

Crossmaglen Scorers: Oisin O’Neill (1-5), Colin O’Connor (1-2), Callum Cumiskey (0-2), Stephen Morris (0-2), Rian O’Neill (0-2), Cian McConville (0-2) Paul Hughes (0-2), Alan Farrelly (0-1)