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Drama all the way but mighty Cross’ clinch their 11th Ulster title

Crossmaglen have won their 11th Ulster Championship but what a battle it was!

Scotstown was never going to roll over and make it easy and chased them every step of the way; Cross may have dominated the first half but Scotstown were chasing their first Ulster Club championship title in 26 years.

Indeed it was Scotstown opened the scoring after three minutes courtesy of Rory Beagan but Crossmaglen hit back with two points to take the lead at a wind-swept Athletic Grounds.

But the Monaghan men shook things up with a goal after eight minutes. The ball was flicked over the head of Crossmaglen’s James Morgan and Darren Hughes, one-on-one with Paul Hearty, left the ‘keeper with no chance.

Crossmaglen, in atrocious conditions, continued to battle and added three more points to draw level.

Scotstown inched ahead again before an outstanding goal from Crossmaglen on 27 minutes. A terrible mistake by Kieran Hughes saw the ball fall to Michael McNamee and Tony Kernan unleashed an absolute power-surge to hit the corner of the net.

And Kernan added a further point to his goal to give the Co Armagh men a three-point lead going in at half time.

Half-time: Crossmaglen 1-3 Scotstown 1-6

Kyle Carragher landed another point with a fine effort over the bar to extend the lead to four points within a minute of the restart, but further scores for Scotstown, including a fine effort by Donal Morgan, and another superb point from Ross McKenna reduced the deficit with Scotstown really coming back into the game.

Jamie Clarke came on to replace Oisin O’Neill 10 minutes into the second half to try and maintain the momentum.

Rory Beagan denied Johnny Murtagh whose ball was turned over the bar and Emmett Caulfield replied for Scotstown to make it 1-8 to 1-7.

Darren Hughes was fouled by James Morgan who was yellow-carded and Rory Beagan took the free but it went out for a 45. The ball came back off the post for Scotstown’s second wide of the half.

A Conor McCarthy free brought both sides level on 1-8 apiece and Scotstown went on the attack.

Cross – who had managed just two points in the second half to date – tried to surge ahead and Tony Kernan was the man who did just that with a well-taken free from out on the right.

Danny O’Callaghan replaced Martin Ahern before a yellow card for Aaron Kernan saw Scotstown awarded a free on the 13 metre line and they made no mistake to draw level again.

Disaster struck for Crossmaglen when Danny O’Callaghan, just on, got a straight red card for an off the ball incident.

But despite being down to 14 players, the Armagh men held on and James Morgan scored to give Crossmaglen a single point lead.

A silly foul by Crossmaglen gave away a free kick and Scotstown brought it back again from straight in front of the bar.

Two additional minutes were added on and another Scotstown free. Darren Hughes was fouled and a free-kick awarded and Rory Beagan could have won it for the Monaghan outfit, but it was to no avail and it ended 1-10 to 1-10.

Ten minutes of extra time and Crossmaglen were back to 15 men.

A Shane Carey free and Scotstown were in the lead at the start of the first period, but lost Kieran Hughes to a red card with five minutes of additional time played.

Cross’ substitute Callum Cumiskey made it 1-11 to 1-11. Jamie Clarke on the run was fouled and a free was given and first half goal hero Tony Kernan stepped up to place the ball over the bar and restore the one point margin.

Renewed enthusiasm from Crossmaglen and they were on the attack. Jamie Clarke was upended and a free kick again given with another vital chance for that man Tony Kernan who made no mistake.

Conor McCarthy left it a point between them again with Scotstown still chasing.

Scotstown had some terrible mistakes.

A David McKenna point and then another goal for Crossmaglen. This was epic stuff.

A dreadful kick out by Rory Beagan in the Scotstown goal and Jamie Clarke played it back to square it to Kyle Carragher who found the back of an empty net.

Another point from Padraig Stuttard and it was 2-15 to 1-12 but then shock as Scotstown landed their second goal of the afternoon and McGinnity was the man who drilled home after the Cross’ defender slipped.

But two more points for Crossmaglen put the final nails in the coffin for Scotstown – who also had Darren Hughes sent off late on – but what an afternoon’s football from two teams at the top of their game.

Scotstown – who won their last Ulster Club Championship final in 1989 – booked their place in the final after defeating Ulster champions Slaughtneil and Tyrone side Trillick by two points.

But despite a determined and spirited effort and a fantastic second half for Scotstown, there was no breaking the resolve of Crossmaglen who have now made it 11 Ulster titles.

Crossmaglen now face the Connaught champions Castlebar Mitchells in the All-Ireland semi-final. It will be played on February 13.

Full-time: Crossmaglen 2-17 Scotstown 2-12

Armagh starting XV: 1, Paul Hearty (captain); 2, Paul Hughes; 3, Aidan Rushe; 4, Paul McKeown; 5, Aaron Kernan; 6, Martin Aherne; 7, James Morgan; 8, Johnny Hanratty; 9, Johnny Murtagh; 10, Michael McNamee; 11, Stephen Kernan; 12, Tony Kernan; 13, Oisin O’Neill; 14, Rico Kelly; 15, Kyle Carragher.

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