Crossmaglen 1-9 Ballybay 2-11
Monaghan champions Ballybay saw off Crossmaglen in the first round of the Ulster Senior Championship. The sides were evenly matched in the first half, but Ballybay pulled away after the turnaround and saw out a five-point win.
A black card to Dara O’Callaghan just before the break hindered Crossmaglen’s chances. Plus, Ballybay played the second half with the breeze at their backs.
Jerome Johnston’s side outscored their hosts 1-7 to 0-1 in the third quarter and never looked back. Ballybay got off to a dream start when they rewarded an extremely harsh penalty in the first ten minutes.
But Shane McGuinness asked no questions and fired low to the corner. Cian McConville swung over his first point before the Rangers hit the net themselves in typical Cross fashion.
Stephen Morris caught a kickout, slipped it to Callum Cumiskey who arrowed a great ball to Jamie Clarke. Clarke played in Rian O’Neill, and the All-Star nominee powered home from around 21 yards out.
Some heroic defending from Aaron Kernan and keeper Conor Deery, making his championship debut, denied the visitors another three-pointer. Thomas Kerr got Ballybay back on level terms before Caolan Finnegan and Clarke edged Cross back ahead.
Ronan Fitzpatrick claimed a point which was soon cancelled out by Drew Wylie, back into the fray following his early black card. McConville grabbed another while two Paul Finlay efforts narrowed the gap to one at half time. 1-5 to 1-4.
The Monaghan champions flew out of the traps at the start of the second half with four points on the trot. Dessie Ward started their scoring spree while Shane McGuinness (2) and Finlay also raised white flags.
Caolan Finnegan replied but there was no let up from the Farney men. A defence splitting pass from Christopher McGuinness played through his brother Shane. McGuinness found Aaron Toner on his own and the big midfield palmed the ball to the net.
Ward followed with a great score while frees from Finlay and Christopher McGuinness kept the scoreboard ticking over. Crossmaglen nabbed a couple of late scores through McConville, O’Neill and Fitzpatrick, but it wasn’t enough.