Clontibret crush Crossmaglen’s Ulster hopes

Crossmaglen 0-9 Clontibret 0-10

While Crossmaglen will feel disappointed with their performance, they can have no complaints as they were second best all over the field. They struggled to come to grips with Clontibret’s defensive structure during the opening 30 minutes and the half time score reflected the Monaghan Champions dominance in front of their own goal.

The Rangers did improve significantly in the second period but their accuracy in front of the posts was the real killer. They struck 11 wides in total and the Clontibret goalkeeper Darren McDonnell dominated the small square as high balls rained down in the final moments of the contest, with Crossmaglen searching frantically for a goal.

15 minutes had passed before Crossmaglen finally opened their account and manager Kieran Donnelly was left to rue their wide count after the final whistle, “the most disappointing aspect for us was we kicked a lot of wides but that’s not taking away from Clontibret, at the end of the day, the best team won”.

“From the very start, things just didn’t happen but that’s not taking away from them, they were brilliant. It was a tight game and it was one point in the end and maybe with a few more minutes we might have got another score but we missed too many chances to be honest and we can’t take it away from Clontibret, they were the best team on the day”.

Conor McManus got his side off the mark after just two minutes, slotting over an early free after the roaming Dessie Mone had been hauled to the ground. McManus again split the posts with a superb left footed strike, from play this time, after he had shrugged off the close attention of man marker Chris Crowley.

Pauric Boyle handed the Clontibret men a four point lead with two points in a row, the second following a turnover from the hard working David Savage. Cian McConville was the only man in the Cross forward line causing any bother and the youngster was fouled in the 15th minute, providing Aaron Kernan with the opportunity to kick over their first score.

The Rangers could have been right back into the game as Oisin O’Neill’s attempt to raise a white flag was deflected, with the ball spilling towards the edge of the square. Colin O’Connor’s strong punch sent the ball towards goal but a superb save from Darren McDonnell meant a 45 was the only outcome.

Clontibret got the next score with another turnover coming in their defensive third with Jack Gormley this time the man winning back possession. The ball found its way to captain Brian Greenan who played through Michael P O’Dowd and for a split second it seemed Clontibret could rattle the net but O’Dowd did the sensible thing and tapped the ball over the bar.

A huge Conor McManus free from nearly 50 yards saw the Monaghan Champions go five points ahead and were full value for their lead. A great interception from Paul Hughes denied another Clontibret attack and it was Crossmaglen’s turn to hit on the counter with Colin O’Connor’s diagonal ball providing the assist for Kyle Carragher’s first point.

Clontibret once again responded and it was O’Dowd yet again who was causing the Cross defence bother and he was on target with a snatch shot straight in front of the goal. Crossmaglen’s first half could have been summed up with the next play, when the reliable Aaron Kernan missed a free kick well within his range.

Kernan did make amends for his error and assisted their next point, playing the final pass to Rian O’Neill who beautifully stroked the ball between the posts with the outside of his right boot. This brought the action to an end for the first half with Clontibret heading towards the dressing room the happier of the two, leading 0-7 to 0-3.

Cross hit the ground running in the second period and the introduction of Tony Kernan seemed to spark some much needed life into them. Oisin O’Neill hit a fantastic long range swinging effort while the substitute Kernan knocked over a point and suddenly Crossmaglen were back within touching distance.

If Cross were going to get something from the game they would have their goalkeeper to thank, Dessie Mone’s through ball allowed Jack Gormley to feed the on-running Conor McManus, right man, right place. McManus’ effort forced a sublime save from Tiernan McConville who turned the ball away from his bottom corner and kept in side in the game.

The sides exchanged frees with Rian O’Neill’s two points shadowed by McManus while McManus saw his third pointed free of the half matched this time by Oisin O’Neill. Crossmaglen went on search of a goal but the closest they came was with Paul Hughes’ final shot that drifted over the crossbar. Clontibret rejoiced at the final whistle, deservingly going through to the next round with the minimum to spare, Clontibret 0-10 Crossmaglen 0-9.

While some of the Crossmaglen followers may feel hard done by with the ease in which Clontibret won their final few frees, Donnelly was unwilling to use this excuse for his team being on the losing side, “No excuse, at the end of the day the whistle blows, whatever the scoreboard says the better team wins, people might have a few questions about some of the decisions near the end there but there’s no point in us complaining about that now”.

“We were beat and the best team won on the day. Us being Cross, we’ll mellow for a wee while and get the winter over us and we’ll hit the ground running in January, February again so we’ll try to get back because there’s a hunger to do well in Ulster but it’s just getting across the line. It’s a young side but you still need experience and you still have to take your chances on the day. Best of luck to John Mac, there’s one happy Cross man tonight”.

Crossmaglen: Tiernan McConville, Paul Hughes (0-1), Rico Kelly, Paul McKeown, Aaron Kernan (0-1, 1 free), Callum Cumiskey, Christopher Crowley, Stephen Morris, Alan Farrelly, Johnny Hanratty, Oisin O’Neill (0-2), Padraig Stuttard, Cian McConville, Rian O’Neill (0-3, 2 frees), Kyle Carragher (0-1). Subs: Tony Kernan (0-1) for J. Hanratty, Padraig Stuttard for P. McKeown, Mel Boyce for A. Farrelly, Johnny McKeever for C. O’Connor.

Clontibret: Darren McDonnell, Conor Doyle, Conor Boyle, Liam Savage, Jack Gormley, Dessie Moen, Colum Greenan, Francis Hughes, Killian Lavelle, David Savage, Michael P O’Dowd (0-2), Brian Greenan, Pauric Boyle (0-2), Vincy Corey, Conor McManus (0-6, 5 frees). Subs: Darragh Hughes for P. Boyle, Kieran Greenan for F. Hughes, Eoin McGuigan for D. Savage.