Cross play it their way to thwart Eunan's
ST EUNAN’S 1-7
ULSTER CLUB SFC QUARTER-FINAL
JAMIE CLARKE was held scoreless, and Aaron Kernan and David McKenna, arguably their two best players, were replaced for precautionary reasons, but Crossmaglen still won by 10 points.
Any potential chinks in the armoury that observers may think they see in the reigning All-Ireland champions certainly weren't in evidence in Armagh's Athletic Grounds yesterday.
Once Rangers figured out the best way to deal with St Eunan's sweeper Mark McGowan, so influential in the early stages, they were able to assert control and roll out a brand of football that remains the most pleasing on the eye from any current team -- club or county.
Faced with the defensive orientation that earned Eunan's last week's Donegal title, Crossmaglen manager Tony McEntee took his time before working out the best points of attack.
Stephen Kernan switched on to the sweeper and forced him to think differently, while the ball was delivered with far greater width around the pitch as is the Crossmaglen way.
Their faith in their own system is unyielding, given how well it has served them, and by the end of the first half it was clear to see that the back had been broken on this one.
St Eunan's have already had a very tough home campaign, six games in six weeks, but this was a steep rise in intensity for them.
In most of his post-match observations, McEntee will invariably observe how football remains a simple game.
The need to reconfigure it is not something that taxes him greatly. With so many accomplished passers of the ball and a great appreciation of space, their style comes naturally to them.
"(Eunan's joint manager) Brendan Devenney mentioned this week that this was not the type of football that they wanted to play and they had to adjust to it," McEntee observed.
"I think therein is the problem, that people are happy to follow what the status quo is or what the large majority do.
"We're not interested in what county teams do or what other club teams do. We have a system which we try to work to, some days it works. At the minute a lot of days it works, but some days it doesn't."
A good start against a team that defends in such numbers was imperative for Cross' and they got it with a wonderfully worked goal -- John Hanratty finding Oisin McConville with a trademark 40-metre delivery, McConville in turn finding Kernan, who had roamed deep into enemy territory, and the final ball made it easy for Kyle Carragher five minutes in.
Eunan's fought back well, with Conal Dunne productive at centre-forward and Ross Wherity causing plenty of trouble around the square.
By the 12th minute, the first of Wherity's three points brought them level, 1-1 to 0-4, but as the battle intensified a clearer picture emerged.
By the break, the Armagh kingpins were 1-6 to 0-4 ahead but were hit by a goal five minutes after the restart when Wherity and Kavanagh combined. Kavanagh's diagonal ball was fielded by John Haran above Paul Kernan and he made the most of the opportunity, despite Paul Hearty's best efforts.
Typically, Cross' remained composed and, when McGowan was red-carded for an off-the-ball incident on 41 minutes, they had the momentum.
Aaron Kernan got a second Cross' goal before being replaced and then substitute Paul Grant added a third after a great Carragher pass.
They now meet Tyrone's Errigal Ciaran, whom they have lost to in their previous two Ulster championship meetings, but that's not something that is exercising McEntee.
"It's completely irrelevant to us what happened in the past. If we have to hang on memories in the past there is not much to us," he said.
Devenney suggested mistakes were costly for his team.
"We gave away 1-7 from direct mistakes we made. They're too good a team for that. They don't do that. They do the basics too well," he said.
"They're out there on their own with strength and power. The big difference is their tackling."
A sideline incident in the first half saw another of Eunan's joint-management team, Eamon O'Boyle, pushed to the ground, and he was clearly dazed by that impact.
"Things happen in the heat of the battle," said O'Boyle afterwards, keen to play it down.
"I was pushed, I pushed back and then I was hit with a fair push, I fell back and hit my head off the ground. I am entitled to be on the field as anyone else, so I think it was out of order."
Scorers -- Crossmaglen Rangers: A Kernan 1-2 (2f), O McConville 0-4 (3f), K Carragher, P Grant 1-0 each, D McKenna 0-2, C Cumiskey, T Kernan (f), P Hughes 0-1 each. St Eunan's: J Haran 1-0, R Wherity 0-3, M McGowan (f), C Dunne, C Gibbons (f), L McGonagle 0-1 each.
Crossmaglen Rangers -- P Hearty; P Hughes, P Kernan, McKeown; A Kernan, J Morgan, M Aherne; J Hanratty, D McKenna; T Kernan, S Kernan, A Cunningham; O McConville, J Clarke, K Carragher. Subs: M McNamee for McKenna (43), R Finnegan for A Kernan (45), C O'Neill for Aherne (47), C Cumiskey for Cunningham (51), P Grant for McConville (57).
St Eunan's -- JP Clarke; C Park, P Devine, E Brennan; M Martin, E Doherty, C Ward, M McGowan; J Haran, R Kavanagh; L McMonagle, C Dunne, K Rafferty; R Wherity, S McVeigh. Subs: C Gibbons for McMonagle (44), C Greene for Ward (45), C Sharkey for McVeigh (57), A McClafferty for Park (59).
Ref -- M Higgins (Fermanagh).