Cross captain salvages dramatic draw
Thursday, August 29th, 2013
CROSSMAGLEN 2-11 GRANGE 2-11
Richard Bullick at the Athletic Grounds.
A last-gasp goal by inspirational skipper Maria O’Donnell snatched Crossmaglen Rangers a dramatic draw in a fluctuating Mackin’s Intermediate Championship final in the Athletic Grounds.
Cross looked dead and buried when six points down entering injury-time but last year’s beaten finalists netted twice and even had a chance to steal victory with the last kick but O’Donnell’s free was plucked out of the sky by Grange six-footer Aideen Toal.
A replay was the least Toal’s sister Dervla Mallon deserved for her inspired display which seemed set to take Grange to a famous victory, though next Saturday’s timing isn’t ideal as the following day she captains Tullysaran in the Armagh Senior Camogie Championship final.
Cross captain O’Donnell opened the scoring in the first minute with a free after one of many speedy bursts by Armagh Under 21 forward Lauren McConville, who looks likely to wear the orange jersey at senior level in the near future.
There were two early wides from Grange legend Dervla Mallon, an All Star nominee back in 2008 and although now retired from county football, still a dominant presence in the middle of the field.
Maria O’Donnell drove a goal attempt past the far post before the electric Siobhan Mackle brought the crowd to life with her first magical play of the afternoon, stepping inside and outside her marker down the line.
Nothing came of it however and Cross doubled their lead with a point from corner forward Mairead Watters in the seventh minute before another breathtaking run by Siobhan Mackle ended with her being treated for injury.
Her marker Marie Luckie was also being attended to further down the field during the same stoppage and their niggly tussle was one of the few captivating aspects of a disappointing first half.
Mallon got Grange on the scoreboard in the 11th minute and added a second point off the outside of her boot to sandwich a Cross score from Tina Moley.
Lauren McConville kicked a point to make it a double scores game in the 16th minute and a Cross shot hit the post though they were exceptionally lucky not to lose Kerri O’Callaghan to the sinbin for a bad foul on Mackle.
Former Armagh stars O’Donnell and Mallon exchanged points for their respective sides before Cross brought on Aoife McMahon for Helen McNamee and last season’s beaten finalists continued to press.
O’Donnell hit an awful wide from a straightforward free, Moley had a shot blocked and Natasha Hughes also drew a blank before the half finally sparked into life in nearly five minutes of injury-time.
Leanne Mackle and Ciara Rafferty pointed for Grange to level the scores but Cross responded superbly with a point from McConville set up by O’Donnell and another two from Tina Moley, though the second might have been a goal the captain been given a better pass. As it was she was lucky not to be blown up for sliding in on the keeper.
Cross captain O’Donnell again got a point in the opening minute of the second half but fellow veteran Mallon quickly closed the deficit to a goal. Moley and Siobhan Mackle then exchanged points to maintain the status quo.
Moley was wide for Cross and Rafferty for Grange but the game took a significant turn in the 45th minute when Siobhan Mackle confidently hit the net to bring Grange level.
Her aunt, Dervla Mallon, nudged them in front with another point and Mackle then hit the post and although Crossmaglen skipper O’Donnell equalised, the team in white had their tails up in a big way now.
The inspirational Mallon pointed after a powerful driving run and although Aveen Donaldson did strike the post at the other end, Grange’s giant full forward Aideen Toal kicked two points to put them a goal clear.
O’Callaghan should have walked for another crude challenge but Grange looked like they had put the result beyond doubt with a Louise Mackle goal in the 59th minute only for Lauren McConville to hit the net with a quick free for Cross in injury-time.
That set up the perfect finish and Cross captain O’Donnell even had a chance to complete a sensational comeback but the free from the left, at the edge of her range, didn’t quite have the legs to go over.
CROSSMAGLEN RANGERS: N O’Callaghan; O Murtagh, S Cairns, H McNamee; M Cannon, J Carberry, M Luckie; O Donaldson, A Donaldson; T Moley, L McConville, N Hughes; K O’Callaghan, M O’Donnell, M Watters. Subs: C Kirk, N Hamill, A McMahon, S Watters, A McConville, MF McNamee, S Jennings, L Morris, D O’Callaghan, A Brady.
GRANGE: J McElmeel; A Toal, O Keegan, C Mackle; C McKenna, C Jordan, A Mackle; L Mackle, D Mallon; G Scully (capt), C Rafferty, L Mackle; M McCusker, A Toal, S Mackle. Subs: M McGeary, H Murphy, N McElmeel, M Mone, P Hughes, S Rafferty, J Gribben, O McElmeel, A Nesbitt, C Cranney.
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