Crossmaglen Rangers 0-24 Ballymacnab 1-15
Crossmaglen Rangers returned to the top of Armagh football with their 44th Senior County Championship title after a pulsating victory over Ballymacnab.
For long periods, the 'Nabb looked on course to upset Rangers and claim their first ever title. But like the Cross outscored their opponents 0-09 to 0-02 in the final quarter with veteran Johnny Hanratty kicking four outstanding points from play.
It was a brilliant free-flowing contest with all but one of the first half points coming from play, while 20 of Crossmaglen’s 24 points came from play.
There wasn’t a blanket to be seen as Ballymacnab’s big Jack Grugan tore the Cross defence ragged with 1-05 from play in the opening half.
His goal on seven minutes put Ballymacnab 1-03 to 0-01 ahead as they appeared set on tearing up the script. Armagh captain Rory Grugan (2) and young Oisin McGivern had put the mid-Armagh men in front with Paudi Stuttard replying for Rangers.
But Cross hit back with the skilful Kyle Carragher landing three of the next four points as young Johnny McKeever grabbed the other.
Still, Ballymacnab kept Rangers at arms-length as each time the latter tried to get close with points from the powerhouse of Johnny Hannratty or young Oisin O’Neill, they had target man Jack Grugan, Gavin McParland and Kieran Hughes to keep their noses in front.
Ballymacnab led 1-11 to 0-11 at the break but the game started to turn in the second half. James Morgan moved to marking Jack Grugan and Rangers introduced the young and lively Cian McConville.
Son of Cross legend Jim, Cian added spark and fizz into the Cross set-up and players such as captain Aaron Kernan, brothers Rian and Oisin O’Neill and Paul Hughes came to the fore.
Rian O’Neill levelled the score 0-16 to 1-13 on 45 minutes and from their there was only going to be one winner.
Rian O’Neill, Cian McConville, Kernan and Hughes kept the Cross scoreboard ticking over as Ballymacnab ran out of steam. McParland converted a 45’ and Jack Grugan added converted free to his first half tally, but they were playing second fiddle to a dominant Crossmaglen who regained the crown they last won in 2015.
Rangers face Tyrone Champions Coalisland in the Ulster Championship quarter-finals, expected to take place in the Athletic Grounds on Saturday (November 3).
Ballymacnab: Sean Hughes, Ciaran Connelly, Ryan Kennedy, Ruairi Gribben, Michael Beagan, Paudi Crilly, James Gray, Pauric Gribben, Paul Meegan, Kieran Hughes (0-04),, Oisin McGivern (0-01), Ryan Watters, Rory Grugan (0-02, 0-01f), Jack Grugan (1-06, 0-01f), Gavin McParland (0-02, 0-01 45’).
Subs: Brendan Toner for Watters (49’), Brian McCone for Hughes (50’), Conor McGivern for S Hughes (52’).
Crossmaglen Rangers: Jamie McEvoy, Rico Kelly, Alan Farrelly, Garbhan Carragher, Aaron Kernan (0-03), James Morgan, Paul Hughes (0-01), Stephen Morris, Oisin O’Neill (0-02), Johnny McKeever (0-03), Rian O’Neill (0-05, 0-2f), Paudi Stuttard (0-01), Mickey McNamee, Johnny Hanratty (0-04), Kyle Carragher (0-03).
Subs: Cian McConville (0-02) for McNamee (34’), Callum Cumiskey for G Carragher (45’), David McKenna for Hanratty (58’), Aidan Rushe for Stuttard (60’), Mel Boyce for J McKeever (60