Clonoe O'Rahilly's and Omagh St Enda's to meet in Tyrone's tie of round
IN WHAT is surely the stand-out the tie of the O’Neill Cup so far - Clonoe O’Rahilly’s and Omagh St Enda’s meet on Sunday evening in Dungannon.
These two traditional powerhouses of Tyrone senior football have played each other three times in the competition recently. Back in 2012, it took two games to separate them, with the West Tyrone side eventually emerging victorious.
The following year, Clonoe were comfortable eight point winners in the first round on route to lifting their eighth senior title. Although that was a bad reversal for the St Enda’s, their quality shone through in 2014 as they then lifted the cup.
Clonoe and Tyrone goalkeeper Mickey O’Neill is certain little will separate the teams in this latest instalment, which is certain to draw a huge crowd to O'Neill Park.
"Omagh have been coming good this last couple of years, they’ve a great squad with six or seven county men,” said O’Neill.
"They have the likes of Justy McMahon and Joe McMahon - you’re talking years of experience there. You also have the likes of Conor Meyler coming through now too, and Ronan O’Neill who has been one of the stand out boys for Tyrone. He has scored a lot for Tyrone this year and he stood out in a lot of games - he’ll need to be watched."
Both teams have been motoring fairly well in the league to date, with reigning champions Clonoe sitting just two points behind fourth placed Omagh and only five points off the top.
They have had to make do without the injured long serving Colm Doris so far this year, and he will in all likelihood be a notable absentee from the starting line-up as will Ryan T O’Neill, who unfortunately broke a collar bone last week.
That said, O’Neill feels that the O’Rahilly’s, a famously strong championship side, have sufficient depth within their squad to compete: "I think we’re strong too, and we’ll be able to cope," he declared.
"We’ve a lot of young boys coming up with the likes of Shane Donnelly, Aaron Elliott and Daryl Magee, who has been around for a couple of years. It should be a good game but I think we can match Omagh in every position."
27-year-old O’Neill, now in his 10th season between the sticks for Clonoe, has two O’Neill Cup medals in his pocket as well as two league medals. He is hungry for more but knows that winning the championship in Tyrone is as difficult as ever.
"I don’t think we’re one of the favourites to win it," he insisted.
"But Clonoe has always been up there with the big names. I just hope to God that we get our preparation all right and we’ll not be far away. Every year, we set out to win the cup but your first big hurdle is the first round. You can’t really look anywhere beyond that.
"It’s as competitive as it ever was - you’ve a different winner in the Tyrone championship every single year. I can’t remember the last time that somebody did a double.
"It definitely is one of the hardest counties to get out of. In other counties, you see all the same names every year – the likes of Cross’ and St Eunan’s coming through every other year.
"But in Tyrone it’s different. It’s Dromore, it’s Omagh, it’s Clonoe, it’s Errigal Ciaran, it’s Trillick. There are five different winners I have just rhymed off - that's in five years."