McNamee squeezes Cross into decider
Burren St Mary's 2-7
Ulster Club SFC semi-final
It was a game of two halves at Casement Park yesterday as favourites Crossmaglen squeezed through to the final.
The Armagh champions survived an impressive second-half performance from Burren -- who will rue their slow start. Rangers tore into the opposition from the off and only a few free-kicks from Sean Murdock gave the Mourne fans something to cheer about.
After Aaron Kernan and Murdock exchanged early points, Rangers slipped into gear. Oisin McConville sent over a placed ball and then set up Johnny Hanratty for another point.
Michael McNamee was proving to be an elusive, roving full-forward and in the seventh minute he was on the end of a David McKenna and Francis Hanratty-inspired move to rocket the ball into the Burren net to put Rangers 1-3 to 0-1 in front.
Murdock eased the pressure from another free but the Cross bandwagon continued to roll as left half-back Stephen Finnegan was given acres of space to scythe through for another point -- with McNamee, McConville (free) and Tony Kernan ('45') adding more punishment to Burren.
Eamon McGovern stopped the rot with a Burren point -- which was quickly replied to by Tony Kernan -- but the game took a dramatic turn before the break. In another Crossmaglen attack, Kyle Carragher was robbed in the left corner and with a sweeping upfield attack, featuring James McGovern and Anton McArdle, Murdock received the ball on the '40', raced in and fired a rocket to the Cross net to reduce Rangers' lead to 1-8 to 1-3 at the break.
Burren made switches and took control of midfield after the restart, with the Cross forwards not getting the supply they enjoyed during the opening 30 minutes. After Eoin McCartan and McConville (free) exchanged points, Murdock rifled over three Burren frees -- one a colossal kick from way out at the end of the third quarter.
With just three points separating the teams at 1-10 to 1-7 after 47 minutes, Rangers were rocked with a smashing Burren goal by stand-in centre-back Donal O'Hare, who had moved up front in the second half.
Kevin McKernan -- performing well at wing half-back -- found sub Ciarán Byrne, whose effort hung in front of the posts from where O'Hare netted to level the score 12 minutes from time.
That made for a pulsating climax to the match, which never produced copybook football in the bitterly cold conditions. Both sides strove for a winner and it was the lively McNamee who got it as he fired over a point six minutes from time.
Burren did have chances to tie up the game and even to sneak victory, but the forwards were badly off-target on four occasions as Rangers slipped through to the decider.
SCORERS -- Crossmaglen: M McNamee 1-2, T Kernan (0-1 '45'), O McConville (0-3f) 0-3 each, A Kernan, S Finnegan, J Hanratty 0-1 each. Burren: S Murdock 1-5 (0-5f), D O'Hare 1-0, E McGovern, E McCartan 0-1 each.
CROSSMAGLEN -- P Hearty; P McKeown, P Kernan, J Morgan; A Kernan, D O'Callaghan, S Finnegan; J Hanratty, D McKenna; K Carragher, S Kernan, F Hanratty; T Kernan, M McNamee, O McConville. Subs: A Cunningham for Carragher (33), F Bellew for J Hanratty (45), M Ahearne for F Hanratty (49), J McEntee for S Kernan (51).
BURREN -- C Murdock; C McGovern, D McCartan, R McGovern; K McKernan, D O'Hare, G McCartan; A Higgins, D Rooney; C McGovern, J McGovern, E McGovern; A McArdle, E Toner, S Murdock. Subs: R McGovern for Higgins (h-t), E McCartan for C McGovern (h-t), C Byrne for Toner (35).
REF -- J White (Donegal)