Omagh hold off late Errigal Ciaran surge to land Tyrone title
Donnelly Vauxhall Tyrone Senior Football Championship final: Omagh St Enda’s 0-10 Errigal Ciaran 0-8
IT wasn’t pretty but Omagh dug deep and got the job done, holding off a late surge from Errigal Ciaran to make sure the O’Neill Cup wouldn’t be leaving Healy Park yesterday evening.
It sets up a mouthwatering Ulster Championship quarter-final clash with Slaughtneil in under a fortnight’s time, not that any of the Omagh players were even thinking about avenging their narrow 2014 defeat to the all-conquering Emmett’s.
This year has shown more than ever how unpredictable the Tyrone championship can be, and just how hard it is to win. Such victories are to be savoured in the here and now – and boy did the St Enda’s faithful enjoy this one.
Yet, even in the midst of the celebrations, absent friends were at the forefront of everybody’s thoughts. Captain Joe McMahon jointly lifted the trophy with Connor O’Donnell, whose father Charlie – a stalwart of the Omagh club – passed away just four weeks ago.
Charlie O’Donnell would have been a proud man yesterday, especially as two sublime second half scores from his son went a long way to tipping the balance in Omagh’s favour.
From the steps of the Healy Park stand, McMahon also paid tribute to Dominic Early, the statistician who played a major part in the club’s last county title success three years ago, so tragically taken during the summer.
And, when it was required, Omagh played like men who were on a mission.
Defensively they were superb from start to finish, rarely giving Errigal an inch as they got their noses in front early and stayed there.
The St Enda’s needed a bit of luck too. It’s not too often you see Peter Harte miss from a penalty kick but when his slotted effort bounced out off the inside of the post towards the end of the first half, Omagh must have felt it could be their day.
Even then, Harte still could have had the last laugh as he lined up the last kick of the game from 14 yards. Trailing by two four minutes into added time, a goal would have given Errigal a first Tyrone title since 2012.
Omagh pulled 13 men back onto the line, and corner-forward Cormac O’Neill got the vital touch that sent the ball out of play, sparking wild celebrations.
“Tyrone championship football, you’re never in control until the final whistle and so it proved to be there again today,” said St Enda’s boss Paddy Crozier.
“We thought we were in the driving seat in the first half but Errigal Ciaran, in typical fashion, they’re always going to come back at you. But we’re absolutely delighted to get across the line.”
The former Derry boss is in his second stint with the new Tyrone champions, having been over them from 2009-2011, and many of the promising young stars coming through then now backbone his starting 15.
“A lot of these young fellas were maybe 17 years of age, but their time has come. It’s another step forward. They thought maybe they would’ve been in the final this last two years. It didn’t happen, but they’re back again.”
It was a disappointing day at the office for counterpart Pascal Canavan, who was left to rue opportunities missed.
“Omagh were a wee bit more clinical in front of goals and probably that was the difference,” said the Errigal boss.
“The two teams were creating chances and they probably took more of them.
“There were a couple of goal chances in the first half, although we didn’t get too many in the second. Those can be costly misses, but good luck to Omagh on their success.”
The first half of yesterday’s game was low on quality and low on scores, with just five on the board by the break as defences reigned.
Peter Harte got Errigal off the mark within 40 seconds but they didn’t trouble the scoreboard again until four minutes after half-time as Omagh turned the ball over time and again, with Ciaran McLaughlin denying the Tyrone playmaker any room to manoeuvre.
Gradually, Omagh began to take control. Ben O’Donnell got back on the goal line just in time to deny Cormac O’Neill a goal five minutes in, before a Connor O’Donnell free tied things up seven minutes later.
Lovely scores against the wind from Conan Grugan and Ronan O’Neill gave Omagh a two point cushion, while Conor Meyler was roaming deep and controlling proceedings as lateral passing was the order of day.
But three minutes after splitting the posts, Ronan O’Neill was in the thick of the action at the other end.
Finding himself in unfamiliar territory in the opposition square, the Omagh forward clumsily prevented Mark Kavanagh getting on the end of a beautifully-weighted Padraig McGirr pass and referee Shane Dorrity signalled for a penalty.
Up stepped Harte to do the needful but, in a frustrating first 30, his kick bounced off the upright and across the face of goal before being ferried away to safety.
“It was maybe against the run of play but it was a penalty,” admitted Crozier.
“Peter would usually put them away but maybe lady luck was with us.”
A Grugan free sent Omagh in three up at half-time but Errigal weren’t done yet as two Harte frees after the restart, one a superb effort from the 45, closed the gap.
The deficit was down to two, 0-6 to 0-4, when O’Donnell made his mark from play. The first of two vital points in the space of five minutes brought a huge roar from the crowd as he cut in from the right before curling over the score of the day.
His second wasn’t bad either, launching between the posts from the other side, and extended Omagh’s lead to five with 11 minutes left.
At this stage the St Enda’s looked home and hosed but Errigal have shown their battling spirit throughout the championship and did so again to leave two in it as the clock ticked down.
It looked a near impossible task as Peter Harte found himself faced with a wall of bodies for the game-defining kick, and so it proved as O’Neill’s fingertips did just enough to secure a ninth county title for the men in black.
St Enda’s, Omagh: N McGinn; G Murray, H Gallagher, S Mullan; C McLaughlin, Joe McMahon (0-1), B Tierney; C Clarke, M Gallagher; T Gallagher, C Grugan (0-3, 0-1 free), R O’Neill (0-3, 0-2 frees); C O’Neill, C O’Donnell (0-3, 0-1 free), C Meyler.
Subs: A Grugan for C O’Neill (26, blood sub), C O’Neill for A Grugan (HT), A Grugan for T Gallagher (40), J McMahon for G Murray (60), J McAnulla for C Clarke (63)
Yellow cards: C McLaughlin (36 & 59),
H Gallagher (51)
Red card: C McLaughlin (59)
Errigal Ciaran: R McAnenly; N Kelly, A McCrory, C Quinn; M Kavanagh, M McRory, C McRory; B McDonnell, B Horisk; E Kelly, P Harte (0-5, 0-3 frees), E Quinn; R McRory, D Harte, P McGirr. Subs: P Og McCartan (0-1) for Kelly (19), S McRory for M McRory (h-t), D McDermott for R McRory (h-t), D Canavan (0-1) for P McGirr (h-t), R Lynch (0-1, free) for D Harte (53), P McAnenly for M Kavanagh (56)
Black card: E Quinn (49)
Yellow cards: C McRory (24), M McRory (30), E Quinn (39)
Red card: E Quinn (49)
Referee: S Dorrity (Coalisland)