Castlebar Mitchels 0-13
Crossmaglen Rangers 0-12
CASTLEBAR MITCHELS ENDED Crossmaglen’s bid for a record-equalling seventh All-Ireland club title and set up their own shot at St Patrick’s Day glory.
There will be a new name on the Andy Merrigan Cup this year with the Mayo champions set to meet Ballyboden St Enda’s in the Croke Park decider on 17 March.
Three points from man of the match Paddy Durkan proved to be invaluable in a thrilling contest which hung in the balance even after Barry Moran hit what would prove to be the winning point in the 58th minute.
The drama at Breffni Park capped a brilliant day of club action after Ballyboden had earlier come back from the brink to beat Clonmel Commercials after extra time in Portlaoise.
Cross started with some scintillating football and led by 0-3 to 0-0 thanks to scores from Stephen Kernan, Jamie Clarke and Tony Kernan.
Clarke in particular proved to be an absolute nightmare for his marker Tom Cunniffe and he added two more points from play in that first half, as well as setting up another for lively teenager Oisin O’Neill.
But Castlebar made sure to take their chances and three frees from Neil Douglas kept them within three points at the break, 0-8 to 0-5.
Both sides had great goal chances towards the end of that first half, with Cross keeper Paul Hearty first denying Douglas before Ray O’Malley made a goalline block to stop Johnny Murtagh at the other end.
After finishing the first half in the ascendancy, Castlebar kept the upper hand and drew level with three unanswered points after the break.
The sides traded points and it wasn’t until the 52nd minute that Castlebar took the lead for the first time through another Douglas free.
Stephen Kernan quickly cancelled it out with a free of his own at the other end, leaving the game finely poised at 0-12 apiece before Moran struck with two minutes to play.
Cross had nearly six minutes of additional time to find their equaliser but it never came, leaving a jubilant Castlebar to set their sights on Boden and the prospect of a first All-Ireland title.
Scorers for Castlebar: Neil Douglas 0-6 (6f), Paddy Durkan 0-3, Barry Moran 0-2, Neil Lydon, Danny Kirby 0-1 each.
Scorers for Crossmaglen: Jamie Clarke 0-4, Tony Kernan (2f), Stephen Kernan, Oisin O’Neill (1f) 0-2 each, Callum Cumiskey, Aaron Kernan (1f) 0-1 each.
1. Rory Byrne
2. Tom Cunniffe
3. Alan Feeney
4. Donie Newcombe
5. Paddy Durkan
6. Eoghan O’Reilly
7. Ray O’Malley
8. Ger McDonagh
9. Barry Moran
10. Shane Hopkins
11. Neil Lydon
24. Stephen Keane
13. Neil Douglas
14. Richie Feeney
15. Danny Kirby
19. Fergal Durkan for Hopkins (40)
18. Cian Costello for Lydon (45)
20. James Durkan for Keane (52)
12. Aidan Walsh for Feeney (55)
1. Paul Hearty
2. Paul Hughes
3. Aidan Rushe
4. Paul McKeown
5. Aaron Kernan
6. Martin Aherne
7. James Morgan
8. Johnny Hanratty
9. Oisin O’Neill
10. Michael McNamee
11. Stephen Kernan
12. Tony Kernan
13. Jamie Clarke
14. Kyle Carragher
15. Callum Cumiskey
20. John Murtagh for Carragher (7)
22. Stephen Finnegan for McKeown (BC, 35)
21. Padraig Stuttard for McNamee (40)
30. Rice Kelly for Murtagh (58)
18. David McKenna for Stuttard (60)
Referee: Eddie Kinsella (Laois).