Comeback kings Clonoe strike late to overcome St Enda's
Donnelly Vauxhall Tyrone Senior Football Championship first round replay: O’Rahilly’s, Clonoe 2-8 St Enda’s, Omagh 1-9
CLONOE proved once again they are the comeback kings in Tyrone after a dramatic late goal from Daniel McNulty saw the O’Rahilly’s send a shell-shocked Omagh towards the exit door.
When Conor O’Donnell scored his fourth point of the day to put Omagh one up a minute into added time yesterday afternoon, it looked as though the 2014 county champions were edging towards a quarter-final date with Carrickmore this weekend.
But as they have proved time and time again, you can never write off Clonoe. Last week Damian Cassidy’s men fought back from three down heading into added-time to force Sunday’s replay. And on Sunday they produced an even more devastating late, late show to set up a meeting with the Carmen.
Referee Jerome McElroy had indicated there would be three minutes of added time but as the game entered its 65th minute, a free into the Omagh square was broken down to the man with 14 on his back.
With bodies everywhere, McNulty - who starred in Tyrone’s All-Ireland U21 victory last year - showed remarkable poise to compose himself before unleashing an unstoppable shot high into the net with the last kick of the game.
“If the game comes to a dogfight, these boys will not go away. They will look you in the eye and they will not blink. That’s the mentality of the players, the spirit that’s in the club,” said an ecstatic Damian Cassidy.
“We matched Omagh and when the questions were asked last week, we had the answers, when the questions were asked today we also had the answers. You want good footballers, good decision makers, but if you haven’t got spirit sure what’s the point? You have to play to the game finishes, and we always play until the game finishes.”
Omagh boss Laurence Strain politely declined to comment after the game, and you could hardly blame him considering what had materialised just moments earlier. Clonoe, aided by a stiff wind blowing across O’Neill Park, started the stronger with the O’Rahilly’s going after Ryan Clarke’s kick-outs early on. A Daryl Magee free and beautiful effort from Connor McAliskey out on the left put them two up before Ronan O’Neill opened Omagh’s account.
A fiery first-half encounter, which saw four players shown yellow cards as tempers frayed, continued to be a nip and tuck affair early on, with McAliskey and O’Donnell finding their range for their respective sides.
Despite holding the upper hand, Clonoe failed to make Omagh pay on the scoreboard as they missed two gilt-edged goal chances within a three minute spell towards the end of the half. Twenty-five minutes in, a long ball in from McAliskey was well held by McNulty but, with the goal at his mercy, he inexplicably sent his low shot wide of the post.
The roles were reversed minutes later when McNulty’s knockdown fell for McAliskey but his shot was brilliantly saved by Clarke in the Omagh goal. Clonoe weren’t to be denied, however, with McNulty finally getting his first goal of the day when he palmed to the net - despite Justin McMahon’s best efforts - after Clarke had saved from PJ Lavery.
An Aaron Elliott point late in the half sent Clonoe in 1-6 to 0-3 ahead, but they didn’t trouble the scoreboard again until the 18th minute of the second half as Omagh came out all guns blazing after the break.
With Joe McMahon moved into the full-forward line, the St Enda’s reeled off 1-3 - the goal courtesy of a Ronan O’Neill penalty - to lead by a point after 41 minutes. Tyrone star Conor Meyler was increasingly influential as Omagh held the ascendancy, but back came Clonoe to take the lead again with points from substitute Stephen McNulty and a McNulty free.
Conan Grugan stroked over to tie things up on the 60 minute mark before O’Donnell looked to have sealed the deal with Omagh’s final point from out on the right. When Connor McAliskey sliced a fairly central free well wide four minutes into added-time, it looked as though Clonoe’s goose was cooked - but McNulty had other ideas.
With the seconds ticking down, he bagged his second major of the day as the O’Rahilly’s fans poured on to the field to celebrate snatching victory from the jaws of defeat in the most dramatic of circumstances.
Clonoe: M O’Neill; J McClure, A Brady, C O’Neill; G Coney, C Lynch, D Quinn; C Hughes, D McClure; P Doris, PJ Lavery, A Elliott (0-1); D Magee (0-2, frees), D McNulty (2-2, 0-2 frees), C McAliskey (0-2); Subs: P Coney for C Lynch (37), S McNulty (0-1) for G Coney (43), S O’Hagan for P Doris (48), F McClure for A Elliott (54); Yellow cards: P Doris (18), J McClure (30), D Magee (58).
Omagh: R Clarke; S Mullan, J McMahon, K Brannigan; C McLaughlin, M Gallagher, B Tierney; C Grugan (0-2, 0-1 free), T Gallagher; C O’Neill, C Meyler, A Grugan; J McMahon, C O’Donnell (0-4), R O’Neill (1-2, 1-0 pen). Subs: C McMahon (0-1) for K Brannigan (HT), R McBride for R O’Neill (57); Yellow cards: M Gallagher (19), C McLaughlin (31), D McNulty (50).
Referee: J McElroy (Aghaloo).