Crossmaglen hold off Kilcoo

CROSSMAGLEN’S three-in-a-row All-Ireland bid continued on Sunday as they defeated Kilcoo in the Ulster final, picking up their 10th provincial title since 1996 in the process.

It was their third Ulster title in a row, the second time they have won three provincial titles in a row in their recent history. They have now won six of the last seven Ulster titles.

The Armagh champions had been reduced to 13 men by the end of an absorbing game, but they were still in complete control in the closing stages, having staved off a spirited second half comeback from Kilcoo.

“From the 17th minute we stopped playing and we were lucky in the end,” said Crossmaglen’s Stephen Kernan.

“Thankfully we got the scores in the last 10 minutes and we’ll enjoy Christmas.”

Crossmaglen made the best possible start to the game, grabbing two very early goals to lead 2-1 to 0-0 after just five minutes.

Oisín McConville, who won his tenth Ulster medal yesterday, struck the first from the penalty spot, before Aaron Kernan followed up with the second goal.

That start left Down champions Kilcoo absolutely stunned, and Crossmaglen continued to plunder scores in the aftermath, Stephen Kernan, McConville and Kyle Carragher all adding to their lead.

Kilcoo rallied somewhat before the interval, but the lead at half-time was a forbidding one, as Crossmaglen went in 2-6 to 0-3 at half-time.

However, just when it looked as though the second half would be yet another procession for the all-conquering Crossmaglen, Kilcoo made a real game of it with a plucky comeback. Donal Kane and Darragh O’Hanlon landed points, and suddenly the gap was down to seven.

Then Anthony Devlin finished off a sweeping move to leave just four points in it.

Michael McNamee then received a red card for Crossmaglen, and another O’Hanlon free left just three points in it, and a numerical advantage to Kilcoo, with 15 minutes left.

Crossmaglen responded by stepping up a gear. Points from Martin Ahern and McConville stemmed the tide for the All-Ireland champions, and a late Kyle Brennan sealed victory.