By Shaun Casey
CROSSMAGLEN picked up their 47th Armagh Senior Championship title with a handsome 12-point win over Clan na Gael last Sunday.
A stunning second-half display from Anthony Cunningham’s men was key as they secured the Gerry Fagan Cup for the second year in a row and for the fourth time in six seasons.
The O’Neill brothers, Oisin and Rian, played a huge part while their younger sibling Aaron earned his first county title, entering the fray during the second half. Cousin Cian McConville also had a big say, top scoring with 0-5.
“It’s very special for the family and for the three of us to come on,” said Rian O’Neill, who kicked 0-3, all from frees, in Sunday’s final.
“It’s not just us, the Cumiskey boys (Callum, Daniel and Harry) are on the team as well and they all played their part. It’s good that we have that bond.”
Crossmaglen completely dominated the encounter after the turnaround, but actually trailed by the minimum of margins at the half-time interval, thanks to a punched goal from Michael McConville five minutes before the break.
But that all changed at the start of the second half and Crossmaglen were a different animal after half time.
“In modern football, games don’t really open up now until the second half,” added O’Neill.
“Fair play to Clans, big Shane (McPartlan) went into the square and caused us hassle, ‘Soupy’ (Stefan Campbell) was running at us. Clans are a good team, fair dues to them. They’ll be back stronger next year no doubt about that.
“We knew at half time; the first half wasn’t good enough because we were slow with the ball, and we weren’t hitting hard.
“The second half I think we just took over at midfield and we have serious pace there coming through the middle and young legs, I don’t think they (Clan na Gael) were fit to keep with us.”
Attention will now turn to Ulster for the Armagh champions. Crossmaglen were once the team to beat in the provincial competition, but their success rate hasn’t been of that standard in quite some time.
The Rangers, who have lifted the Seamus McFerran Cup more times than anyone else (11), haven’t won Ulster since 2015, which was also the last time they appeared in the final.
They exited the Ulster Championship at the first hurdle last season when they were dismissed with ease by Monaghan champions Ballybay last year.
This season, they await the winners of the Tyrone championship with Trillick and Eirrigal Ciaran set to lock horns this weekend.
“That left an awful sour taste in our mouth last year, the way we performed in the second half against Ballybay,” added the Armagh star.
“But we’ll enjoy tonight and tomorrow, and I think the Tyrone final is on next weekend and it’s no foregone conclusion either. I have family down in Trillick and I know how much it means to them, so we’ll be ready in three weeks’ time for a big one.”