Crossmaglen 3-8 2-8 Dr Crokes

Dr Crokes' Daithi Casey and Crossmaglen's Danny O'Callaghan
Crossmaglen's Danny O'Callaghan challenges Daithi Casey at Portlaoise

Crossmaglen fought back from seven points down to beat Dr Crokes of Killarney in a remarkable All-Ireland Club Football semi-final at Portlaoise.

The Kerry side dominated the opening 20 minutes as they moved 1-5 to 0-1 ahead, helped by a Brendan McKeown own goal.

But Michael McNamee's goal cut Crokes' lead to 1-6 to 1-4 at the break.

Stephen Kernan's goal put Cross ahead before he received a red card and while Chris Brady's goal levelled, Aaron Kernan's late goal proved the clincher.

Crossmaglen were forced to start without influential midfielder David McKenna and he was badly missed at centrefield early on as the Crokes trio of Ambrose O'Donovan, Eoin Brosnan and Johnny Buckley completely dominated in the engine room.

Aaron Kernan cancelled out Cooper's opening fisted point but Crokes responded with an unanswered 1-4 to lead by seven points after 21 minutes.

The opening goal came after 21 minutes as the unlucky McKeown diverted an O'Donovan high ball past his own keeper Paul Hearty.

Crokes had already wasted one glorious goal chance prior to that with Andrew Kenneally blasting inches wide in the eighth minute as the Kerry side cut open the Cross defence.

At seven points down, Cross appeared almost down and out with Crokes also set to have an near gale force wind at their backs in the second period.

But that remarkable veteran Oisin McConville inspired the key period of the match before the break as Cross regrouped to outscore Crokes 1-3 to 0-1 as the referee mysteriously opted to play four minutes of injury time.

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Oisin McConville says the side had to "dig deep" to earn a 3-8 to 2-8 comeback win

With McKenna now on the field and starting to make a difference at midfield, McConville started with comeback with a point from play in the 23rd minute and his superb fetch and lay-off set up McNamee to rattle the Crokes net a minute later.

A long-range O'Donovan point extended Crokes' lead to 1-6 to 1-2 but crucially Aaron Kernan and McConville converted frees during the lengthy injury-time period.

Within five minutes of the restart, Cross were ahead as Stephen Kernan's low shot from the edge of the large square bobbled past an apparently unsighted Crokes keeper Alan Kelly.

A further Aaron Kernan free and exquisite finish from a tight angle by Jamie Clarke extended Cross' lead to four before they were rocked by Stephen Kernan's dismissal.

Cross captain Kernan appeared to retaliate by striking a Crokes player after being fouled and referee David Coldrick waved the straight red card after consulting with linesman Cormac Reilly.

The dismissal looked like a potential turning point as Eoin Brosnan's point was followed by sub Chris Brady's 51st-minute goal as Crokes drew level.

But Cross were back in control within two minutes as Aaron Kernan lashed to the net from 10 yards after the Crokes defence had failed to deal with a high ball.

Aaron Cunningham put Cross four up with two minutes of normal time left and with the Killarney side only managing a Cooper free in reply, the Armagh side stayed on course for a sixth All-Ireland title.

Cross will surely be favourites in the St Patrick's Day decider against Westmeath club Garrycastle but they will have to play without captain Kernan if his straight red card is upheld.

All-Ireland Club Football semi-finals results

Crossmaglen 3-08 2-08 Dr Crokes

Garrycastle 1-11 1-09 St Brigid's

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