Clann Eireann Minors 2-13 Crosmaglen Minors 0-20
Clann Eireann Minors were inconsolable at the end of the All County Championship Final against Crossmaglen at the Athletic Grounds on Saturday night after the Lurgan side lost by a point in a game which could only be described as a classic.
A total of 2450 fans attended the double bill and although the Senior encounter between Maghery and Cross never reached any great heights, the curtain raiser would have to be considered as the best game seen at the venue this season.
The Clanns dominated large swathes of the decider, they looked somewhat apprehensive at the start but settled to take the game to the champions and lead midway through the first half on a score line of 1-06 to 0-04, before Rangers fought back to level things at the break.
Considering that a sizeable majority of the Clann Eireann side are available again next season, the Lake Street lads can take pride in the fact that they played with great vigour and tenacity against a very good Crossmaglen outfit who were crowned Ulster Under 16 Champions back in 2014.
The name of McConville will be synonymous with events which transpired at the Athletic Grounds last Saturday night, Conor, Ruairi and Aodhan McConville all excelled for the Lurgan men, but it was young Rangers lad Cian McConville who mimicked his father and former Armagh player Jim during the final quarter when hitting three points on the trot, a scenario which galvanised the South Armagh sides victory. With the teams locked all square however at the end of normal time and the fans begging for a replay, it was young McConville’s misdirected effort which fell to Michael McCabe who flashed over the winner at the end of a game in which the Lurgan men appeared to be superior in most sectors of the field.
Clann Eireann lead by six points midway through the first half and before the short whistle the Lurgan lads rallied to put 4 between them on the three quarter mark, the goals for the losers were tactically worlds apart, the first strike which was finished by Audhan McConville on 14 minutes came from a defence splitting pass on the counter attack, the second effort which appeared to signal a victory push from the Clanns arrived courtesy of a rasping effort from Tiarnan Kelly.
Throughout the final Clann Eireann’s midfield pairing of Barry McCambridge and Conor McConville were superb, the losers were sublime in the air and although the Clanns performance was all about teamwork, the endeavours of full back Sean McCarthy, Ryan Owens at centre half Sean Keenan at 11, and the two McConville lads up front deserve special praise. Ten minutes after the break young Keenan almost wrapped the game up for the Lake Street side but his cutting edge drive on 40 minutes screamed just over with the Rangers keeper McEvoy beaten.
At the end of the first half the sides were all square, the effective Rioghan Meehan opened the Lurgan account, with Oisin O’Neill and Steven Morris giving Cross the lead. Following a converted free from Conor McConville his cousin Aodhan McConville bagged the first goal on 15 minutes and the Clanns continued to dominate with points from Conor Turbitt and Dylan Haton before Rangers staged a fight back to go in level . Combining some fantastic tackling with their domination in the air Clann Eireann took control of the third quarter with points from McCambridge, Keenan, Aodhan McConville and another effort from Sean Keenan which screamed just over.
In a pressure cooker last quarter the winners out scored their opponents by the narrowest of margins. With the game in the melting pot, Clanns sub Tiernan Kelly squared the game , but it was the county champions who had the last say with McCabe snatching a late winner.
Seamus Mc Ataveys young Clann Eireann side despite losing, contributed to a final which will be remembered for some time,