O'Neill brothers the difference in fiery Crossmaglen victory
Crossmaglen (Armagh) 0-12 Coalisland (Tyrone) 0-10
It was tough, tense and tenacious throughout, but in the end Crossmaglen Rangers just managed to scramble over the line in this Ulster club SFC quarter-final at the Athletic Grounds, Armagh, on Saturday night.
Four players were sent off by overworked referee Martin McNally, a couple of others were fortunate to escape this censure, and the tackling on occasions bordered on the dangerous in a fiercely contested tie which evolved into a war of attrition.
Despite playing against a strong breeze in the first-half, Coalisland led 0-2 to 0-1 early on after scores from Paddy McNeice and Bailey Leonard.
Coalisland looked to have shot their bolt when Brian Toner and Eoin Hampsey were dismissed in the first-half. Toner was sent off for a second yellow card and Hampsey received his marching orders for an off-the-ball incident.
However, the accurate free-taking of McNeice kept them afloat at the halfway stage, when they trailed by just a point (0-6 to 0-5).
It was Crossmaglen's turn to lose their way after the break, when Callum Cumiskey and Johnny Hanratty were red carded, but the O'Neill brothers, Rian and Oisín, were to prove instrumental in piloting their side to victory in a frenetic finish.
While McNeice's eight points sustained Coalisland's challenge, Rian O'Neill's seven points, allied to a brace from brother Oisín (left), proved crucial in keeping the Armagh kingpins on course for another provincial title.
SCORERS - Crossmaglen Rangers: R O'Neill 0-7 (1 '45', 2f), O O'Neill 0-2, S Morris, J McKeever, M McNamee 0-1 each. Coalisland: P McNeice 0-8 (8f), S McNally, B Leonard 0-1 each.
Crossmaglen Rangers - J McEvoy; R Kelly, A Farrelly, G Carragher; A Kernan, J Morgan, P Hughes; S Morris, O O'Neill; J McKeever, R O'Neill, P Stuttard; M McNamee, J Hanratty, K Carragher Subs: C Cumiskey for Studdart (6), C McConville for McNamee (h-t), T Kernan for McKeever (47)
Coalisland - P Donnelly; D Fee, P Hampsey, E Hampsey; M McKernan, S McNally, N Kerr; J Carberry, P Kane; P Herron, C O'Hagan, P McGahon; B Leonard, P McNeice, B Toner Subs: T Quinn for McGahon (47), C Quinn for Leonard (53)
Ref - M McNally (Monaghan)