Ulster Club SFC: Clontibret beat Crossmaglen by a point to reach semi-final

Clontibret fended off a late comeback from Crossmaglen to win by a single point
Clontibret fended off a late comeback from Crossmaglen to win by a single point

Clontibret have reached the Ulster Club SFC semi-final after a 0-10 to 0-9 victory over Crossmaglen Rangers at the Athletic Grounds.

After a fast start which saw them establish a four-point lead at half-time, the Monaghan champions held off the Orchard County stalwarts during a tense finish in Armagh.

Crossmaglen kicked 13 wides to Clontibret's eight in tough conditions.

Clontibret will face either Castlerahan or Naomh Conaill in the last four.

Clontibret settled quickly into the game with Conor McManus kicking the opening two points, the second of which was a pinpoint angled effort.

Pauric Boyle added another two to give the Monaghan outfit a four-point advantage as Cross struggled to find their radar, with Cian McConville missing a routine score.

Cross captain Aaron Kernan kicked his side's first point after 15 minutes but that was followed by another wide on an evening when the players struggled to come to terms with the rain-battered Athletic Grounds surface.

Clontibret were the more enterprising side in the first half, particularly when livewire forward Michael P O'Dowd picked up the ball. After 22 minutes, the half-forward tore through the Cross defence and, while the goal chance was there, he decided to take a point from close-range.

McManus added his third score of the evening before Crossmaglen's Kyle Carragher opened his account, with O'Dowd notching Clontibret's seventh before Rian O'Neill kicked over to make it a four-point deficit at the break.

Cross came out stronger in the second half as Oisin O'Neill reduced the arrears to three before Tony Kernan kicked the score of the night with a wonderful right-footed effort from distance.

On 41 minutes, Clontibret passed up a huge goal opportunity when Cross 'keeper Tiernan McConville produced a first-class save to deny McManus.

Rian O'Neill brought Cross to within a single point before a McManus free gave Clontibret some much-needed breathing space.

McManus split the posts once more which prompted Cross into a fight-back in the final seven minutes.

But it wasn't to be for the 11-time Ulster Club champions. While they added late scores during a breathless final few minutes, Clontibret 'keeper Darren McDonnell stood firm between the posts and cleared a couple of dangerous situations and got his side higher up the pitch when Cross pushed for a goal.

Clontibret's O'Dowd was shown a black card in the closing stages, but it didn't impact the outcome as Cross fell agonisingly short while Clontibret - under the auspices of Crossmaglen legend John McEntee - hung on to secure their semi-final berth by a single point.

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