'Gerry's back': Maghery celebrate Armagh title success after win over Crossmaglenby Neil Loughran at the Athletic Grounds
Cormac Leonard Commercials Armagh SFC final: Crossmaglen Rangers 0-17 Sean MacDermott’s, Maghery 4-9
YOU didn’t need an Athletic Grounds filled to capacity to see, to feel, what yesterday’s Armagh final victory meant to Maghery as they dethroned champions Crossmaglen.
The story was told in the faces of the family members hanging over the pitchside railing at the end, waiting to embrace their heroes; in the jubilation of the sweat-soaked players, lapping up every second of an unforgettable day.
Receiving the Gerry Fegan Cup out on the field away from their supporters, and getting changed in the cool shade of the terrace opposite the main stand were stark reminders of the strange year that’s in it.
But those are not the things Maghery men will take away from yesterday. What they will remember is the feeling of hearing the long whistle, after goals from Brendan Haveron, Brian Fox, man-of-the-match Aidan Forker and Ronan Lappin helped bring them back to the top of the tree in Armagh.
“Gerry’s back boys,” roared captain David Lavery as he clasped his hands on the trophy, “Gerry’s f**king back.”
Boss Finnian Moriarty stood off to the side of the stage as the trophy presentation took place, his quiet sense of satisfaction clear as he recounted a memorable afternoon for the Loughshore men.
And goals, they knew, were going to be vital if Maghery were to stop the south Armagh superpower landing a third title on-the-trot.
“That has been coming,” said the former Armagh corner-back.
“We have improved progressively throughout the championship and we knew Crossmaglen would come out and play us today and that there would be opportunities to score goals whereas in previous games we struggled to get in towards the goalkeeper.
“They [the goals] came at the right time I think. We scored one at the start and that nearly negates Crossmaglen’s notoriously strong start and then we got on when we really needed it.
“They had outscored us 10 points to two and they really put a squeeze on us, and if we hadn’t have got that goal before half time I think we would have been in serious bother. But goals win games and fair play to the boys when the chances were there they put them away.”
Fox’s goal - Maghery’s second of the day - came in added time at the end of a first half when the O’Neill brothers, Oisin and Rian, had run riot for Cross at times.
But it was the half-time introduction of midfielder Ben Crealey – featuring in this year’s championship after undergoing surgery on a broken collarbone seven weeks ago – that helped turn the game in their favour.
“I couldn’t be happier for Ben,” said Moriarty.
“Over the last week and a half he started putting his hand up saying he was ready for 15 minutes.
We had wanted to keep him to the end of the match but the way the game was played and the way Cross had dominated the break ball and the midfield in the first half for long periods, if we had waited another 15 minutes it might have been too late.
“Ben was excellent when he came on and everything he kicked to Aidan [Forker] stuck, and when the ball sticks inside you are on to a winner.”
For Crossmaglen, their first county final defeat since 1982 was a bitter blow – just as it is any time they lose, which isn’t often.
And boss Stephen Kernan admitted Maghery’s efficiency, as opposed to their own profligacy in front of goal, had been the difference.
He said: “They had four goal opportunities and took the four of them, we had five one-on-ones and missed all five.
“Even if we’d got one of them, it would’ve changed the perspective, but that’s championship football. They took their chances, we didn’t and fair play to them. They deserved the win as a result.”