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Clarence Cup semi-final

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Crumlin Star ....4 Rathfriland Rangers ....0 RATHFRILAND Rangers suffered a humiliating defeat by rivals Crumlin Star to deny them a place in the Clarence Cup final.
The top two sides in the Northern Amateur Football League looked set to put on a cracking game last Wednesday night (2 May) but the Whites failed to deliver and simply surrendered to Star.
Whites boss Aaron Black must have been cursing his luck as injuries to key players robbed him of key individuals who could have turned the game.
Star striker James Costello, first-choice goalkeeper David Ferguson and Black himself were still on the treatment table and January signing Tommy Lockhart was ineligible to play in the competition.
The team sent out by Black to face Star should still have had enough quality to compete in the game but instead a thrashing was dished out to the Rangers by the Ardoyne club.
The game started with the Whites having a glorious opportunity to open the scoring on 10 minutes when Jonathan Scannell nipped in but his tame effort was straight at McNeill in the Star goal.
And that proved to be a costly miss as the Star pounced when Jack Graham gave away possession on the right and a cross rebounded off the bar for Ciaran Murphy to nod over the goalline.
Within a minute Star had doubled their lead.
Midfielder Kevin Trainor drilled one from 30 yards at stand-in stopper Mark Gracey, who was playing with a broken toe, but he could not hold on to it, instead palming it into the net.
And five minutes later with the clock yet to register 20 minutes the Whites were dead and buried when they conceded again.
A hopeful ball forward from Star caused a mix-up between Gracey and Graeme Edgar who left it for each other, allowing James Doyle to gladly nip in and score.
Three shocking goals in quick succession were compounded by the toothlessness of the Whites' attack, with no serious threat posed to Star's goal and seemingly no way back into the game.
The second half was all about Star again.
Rathfriland looked to be overrun in several areas of the pitch and outmuscled in the wide areas, providing little support for Scannell up front.
On rare occasions when the Whites did counter and create chances they were not taken, with skipper Jonny Roy missing the best of them, firing wide from eight yards.
Star had chances to increase their lead but did not manage that until the 80th minute when another sloppy mistake led to Murphy adding to his opener.
Gracey spilled the ball in the edge of the box and Murphy stole it and struck.
It seemed like the task had been a step to far in their season and they clearly lacked the necessary quality to go toe-to-toe with Star, especially with several key absentees.
But credit must go to Crumlin Star, thoroughly deserving of their win and their place in the final.
Both sides continue to battle it out in the hunt for the league title but the Whites need Star to slip up, otherwise they are on course to clinch a terrific trophy treble.
Rathfriland Rangers: Mark Gracey; Jonny Roy, Daryl Evans, Michael McAlinden, Graeme Edgar; Mark Teggart, Ross Black, Matt Hazley, Stevie Coulter, Jack Graham; Jonathan Scannell. Subs: Ryan Clydesdale, Ryan Sloane, Max Wilson.

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