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St. Brigids finally avenged their 2011 All-Ireland Final defeat to Crossmaglen Rangers, as they beat the defending champions 2-07 to 1-09 in an excellent game at Cusack Park.
Rangers came into this All-Ireland Club Football semi-final looking for an unprecedented three titles in a row. However, in St. Brigids they faced a very talented side that had undoubtedly matured since the heartbreak of 2011.
The game began at a ferocious pace with Crossmaglen opening the scoring from a well-taken Kyle Carragher point after just sixteen seconds. St. Brigids reacted in the best possible manner, with some excellent attacking football resulting in a Frankie Dolan goal in the second minute. The St. Brigids talisman received the ball in a great position, and his deflected shot looped over the keeper and into the back of the net. 1-0 to 0-1 St. Brigids.
Darren Dolan had a great chance for a goal soon after but struck the ball over the bar from close range on six minutes. This was to be the last time St. Brigids would score from play in the first half.
It was now 1-02 to 0-1 to Brigids, and they were very much in control. However, Crossmaglen are the defending champions for a reason and stepped it up a gear to dominate the midfield battle. Their hard work paid dividends and they replied with a great goal. A long ball was played into Jamie Clarke from midfield and he released the oncoming Paul Hughes who made no mistake and finished with aplomb.
St. Brigids were stunned by the goal and successive quick-fire points from Aaron Kernan and Kyle Carragher put the Armagh men in front by a point 1-03 to 1-2.
A Senan Kilbride free levelled the sides on twenty minutes, but Crossmaglen were dealt a crushing blow soon after when they lost talisman Óisín McConville to injury. His replacement, Kyle Brennan, started well and scored a point within minutes of entering the game. A Jamie Clark point followed and Rangers went in at halftime leading 1-05 to 1-03.
St. Brigids went in knowing that they only had themselves to blame for the deficit, as they closed out the half with three misses from scorable positions.
Crossmaglen were quickest out of the traps in the second half and had a great chance for the maximum after just thirty seconds. The Rangers forwards tore through the St. Brigids defence but Kyle Brennan somehow put the ball wide from all of five yards. A massive turning point in the game that gave St. Brigids the wake-up call they needed.
Points from Senan Kilbride and Frankie Dolan levelled the scores and there was a palpable tension in the air. Brigids were in control from here on out, and an excellent point from subper-sub Cathal McHugh, followed by another from Frankie Dolan made it four it 1-7 to 1-5 to the Roscommon champion. That was four points in a row for St. Brigids and the momentum was clearly in their favour.
Rangers’ David McKenna finally got his side’s first point of the half in the 50th minute, and another from Jamie Clarke made it 1-07 apiece. They went ahead with an Aaron Kernan point just a minute later, after he lost his marker and stroked the ball over the bar. That made it 1-08 t- 1-07 to Crossmaglen after three points in as many minutes.
However, the defining moment came in the 56th minute, when persistence from the St. Brigids forwards paid off and the ball dropped kindly for Conor McHugh to score into an empty net. This was a crushing blow to Crossmaglen’s three-in-a-row hopes and the sending off of Shane Curran, following an off-the-ball incident with the St. Brigids keeper, compounded their misery.
Crossmaglen gave it their all in the three minutes of added time, but couldn’t penetrate the Brigids defence. A Jamie Clarke point in injury time gave them an ounce of hope, but it was not to be and St. Brigids won the match on a scoreline of 2-07 to 1-09. The final whistle led to emotional scenes as an inevitable pitch invasion displayed how much the victory meant to the Roscommon side. They now await the winners of Dr. Crokes and Ballmun Kickhams in the other semi-final.