Ulster Club SFC: Paul Finlay plays starring role as Ballybay prove too strong for Crossmaglen

Veteran forward scores four points on his debut in the Ulster club championship

Ballybay (Monaghan) 2-11 Crossmaglen Rangers (Armagh) 1-9

Ballybay’s 39-year-old Ulster championship debutant Paul Finlay said “We got what we came for,” after his side’s victory over Crossmaglen Rangers on Saturday night.

A blistering third quarter did the trick on the night for the Monaghan champions. With the Armagh kingpins down wing forward Dara O’Callaghan to a black card on the stroke of half time, Ballybay outscored Cross 1-5 to 0-1 in that match-winning period after half time.

“We were one down at half time and we knew we had a bit of a breeze behind us in the second, so we had to go for it. There is no point in trying to time your run or try any different.” Finlay stated. “We really had to go for it and we did and got some great points and the goal was really a bonus at that stage just to help us build up a lead. And once we built up that lead, we were able to see out the game. And we were really good in possession for the most part.


“We were playing against Crossmaglen; they really pride themselves on pushing up and putting you under pressure and that they did. But thankfully we had built up enough of a lead to see it through.”

Substitute Aaron Toner palmed in the goal and Finlay showed a steady hand on things to push his side further ahead when O’Callaghan returned to the action.

With that, Ballybay had the lead that they would not, or indeed did not look likely yo, relinquish. Despite Rian O’Neill’s presence. Cross never threatened and their best spell came in the first half when O’Neill lashed home from distance against the run of play. Shane McGuinness despatched a penalty of the soft variety beforehand but Cross were uncharacteristically naive and their manager Stephen Kernan can see the silver linings despite the defeat for his young charges.

“For over half the team it was their first time starting an Ulster championship match. When you have 10 players making a start in an Ulster Championship game, live on RTÉ, all under 20 years of age, it bodes well but it only bodes well if they learn from it.”

Finlay was otherwise occupied in 2012, the last time Pearses were in Ulster, he was captain that year but the former Monaghan star was on honeymoon as his side bowed out to Kilcoo. He’ll get to face the All-Ireland champions this Sunday in Clones.

Manager Jerome Johnston may not however as he finds himself with some split loyalties to consider – the Kilcoo native has three sons likely to be lining up against his Ballybay side. Plenty to ponder in the coming days in both camps.

BALLYBAY PEARSES: Julius Sniauksta; Tiernan McSkean, Micheal Hannon, Ryan Wylie; Eoin McKearney, Shane Monaghan, Colm Lennon; Drew Wylie (0-1), Dessie Ward (0-2); Ciarán Galligan, Shane McGuinness (1-2, 1-0 pen), Daniel Caraher; Paul Finlay (0-4, three frees), Christopher McGuinness (0-1), Thomas Kerr (0-1). Subs: Aaron Toner (1-0) for Galligan (h-t), Thomas Keenan for Caraher (55 mins), Conor McArdle for S McGuinness (62), Brent Wylie for Monaghan, Shane McQuillan for C McGuinness (both 63).

CROSSMAGLEN RANGERS: Conor Deery; Tony O’Callaghan, Thomas Duffy, Alan Farrelly; Aaron Kernan, James Morgan, Paul Hughes; Stephen Morris, Rian O’Neill (1-1); Dara O’Callaghan, Callum Cumiskey, Caolan Finnegan (0-3); Cian McConville (0-3, two frees), Jamie Clarke (0-1). Ronan Fitzpatrick (0-1). Subs: Chris Crowley for Farrelly (37 mins), Daniel Cumiskey for D O’Callaghan (48), Orin McKeown for Hughes (52).

Referee: Noel Mooney (Cavan Gaels).