Coalisland upset the odds once more
LCC Tyrone SFC quarter-final: Coalisland Na Fianna 0-15 Errigal Ciaran 2-7
ON Friday afternoon, the bookmakers had the race for the Tyrone title reading Trillick-Errigal-Omagh. By last night, all three were gone.
For a trade that famously gets it wrong so seldom, they’re no better than the rest of us when it comes to predicting club football in the Red Hand county.
Errigal were many people’s favourites for the title even before Trillick got the road, but that tag was ripped from them in impressive fashion by a Coalisland side that will have the target on their own backs now.
While all but one of the game’s big moments fell in favour of the ‘Island, the only one that Pascal Canavan could have complained about was the black card for Peter Harte early in the second half.
It seemed a genuine, if mistimed, lunge into a tackle, but referee Shane Meehan deemed it a deliberate trip and sent the Errigal talisman on a short walk to the dugout.
The Ballygawley men were 2-6 to 0-10 ahead at the time, and they would score just a single point thereafter, but truthfully they were lucky even to be in front at that stage.
Right from the opening stanza, Coalisland were the better side. They started off against a strong wind but Damien O’Hagan’s side raced into a 0-5 to 0-1 lead, with impressive veteran Plunkett Kane kicking one and fisting another of those four scores.
Michael McKernan’s driving energy was a source of joy all day for the blues, but the standout operator in the first half was Peter Herron.
His directness and pace from centre-forward caused chaos in the Errigal defence, and his performance was only tempered by the fact that his two points could have been goals.
The first should have been as he tore right down the middle and rounded Darragh McAnenly, but on his weaker left and still going full tilt, he blazed well over the bar with the goal gaping.
That made the gap four and it was pretty much wiped out in a controversial instant. Davy Harte’s low shot was stopped by Peter Donnelly, but as he gathered the loose ball, the referee deemed there was no foul on him. The ball popped out and Peter Harte poked into the net.
Herron again made good of the lack of cover in front of the Errigal goal by cutting through, but there was enough pressure on him to force his right-footed effort over when he had half a sniff again.
And then it turned again. Having made early joy by dominating Errigal’s kickouts, Coalisland began to struggle badly on their own. They lost two in a row, both mishit by Peter Donnelly, and conceded 1-1.
The first was intercepted and Ronan McRory cut in to bury a shot across the ‘keeper and into the top corner. The favourites won the restart and a one-two and finish from Peter Harte made it 2-3 to 0-6, a scoreline not in keeping with the game’s pattern.
Three Paddy McNeice frees held Coalisland in the game until half-time, with Pauric McAnenly and Darren Canavan (free) responding at the other end to send Errigal Ciaran in 2-5 to 0-9 ahead.
But Peter Harte’s black card came after an early Canavan free that would be one of only two scores they took in the second half. When you compare that to Coalisland’s nine against the wind, there can be little or no argument about the merits of victory.
Just moments before Harte went off, it seemed to take a big swing in his side’s favour too. A brilliant long ball by Niall Kerr was brilliantly read by McNeice, who got in behind Aidan McCrory to take it. He had no time to think though. Darragh McAnenly got his leg to it and the cover managed to squirrel the ball clear.
Harte had just gone when Errigal fashioned a great chance for a third goal, and it was his replacement Stefan Tierney it fell to. He was one-on-one, but Donnelly rushed him and redeemed himself with a great save with the trailing leg.
There were so many moments of such significance that it’s hard to boil it down to one turning point. But with Davy Harte’s experience having just been replaced before Peter’s was sent off, centre-back Michael McRory then walked for a reckless lunge.
He had already been booked and was going anyway, but the referee correctly deemed that his lunging trip on the goal-bound Cormac O’Hagan was worthy of a straight red card.
McNeice tapped over the free from 13 metres to put Coalisland back in front at 0-13 to 2-6. A man up, with the gale at their backs and now with the lead they merited, it was hard to see that they wouldn’t win it.
And yet it was only when Niall Kerr got up to fist over in the 62nd minute that they finally shut the game down.
It had looked written for young Darragh Canavan, begotten not made, when he jinked and jived his way on to the left and kicked his first score in senior championship football to level matters 16 minutes into his debut.
There will be many more of them to come, but not this time. Cormac O’Hagan, who along with Dan Fee and Stephen McNally had a big game, coolly put Coalisland back in front with four to play, and they only had one real moment of worry to withstand in the seven minutes between that and Kerr’s insurance score.
Their poor start to the league had shuffled them back into the pack, something of a forgotten entity. And now the money will all be going on another Coalisland-Killyclogher final, same as in 2016.
But there is no more foolish thing to do with a person’s money than bet it on Tyrone club football.
Coalisland: P Donnelly; S Hughes, P Hamspey, E Hampsey; M McKernan (0-1), D Fee, N Kerr (0-1); J Carberry, S McNally; C O’Hagan (0-3, 0-1f), P Herron (0-2), P Kane (0-2); B Leonard, P McNeice (0-6, 0-5f), N Fox
Subs: C Quinn for Fox (38), T Quinn for Leonard (56)
Yellow cards: N Fox (12), M McKernan (36)
Black card: N Kerr (64), no replacement
Errigal Ciaran: D McAnenly; N Kelly, A McCrory, C Quinn; M Kavanagh, M McRory, C McRory; B Horisk, P Harte (1-1); T Canavan (0-1), P McAnenly (0-1), D Quinn; R McRory (1-0), Darren Canavan (0-3f), D Harte
Subs: B McDonnell for D Quinn (HT), P Óg McCartan for Kavanagh (HT), Darragh Canavan (0-1) for D Harte (36), C Corrigan for R McRory (56), P McGirr for Horisk (61)
Black card: P Harte (38), replaced by S Tierney
Yellow cards: M McRory (2), C McRory (17), A McCrory (57)
Red card: M McRory (43, straight red)
Referee: S Meehan (Galbally)