Killyclogher and Ardboe could produce fireworks in Tyrone championship
LCC Tyrone SFC semi-final: Killyclogher v Ardboe (Tomorrow, Carrickmore, 3pm)
SEMI-FINALS, as they say, are for winning, and are often dull, forgettable slug-fests.
But there's something about Sunday's LCC Tyrone SFC clash of Killyclogher and Ardboe that suggests otherwise, and offers the promise of a contest of real quality.
Two teams blessed with talented footballers and a steely championship mentality will meet at Pairc Colmcille in Carrickmore.
And in keeping with the intensity of combat in the Tyrone series, the general expectation is that this tie will deliver in spades.
Killyclogher, going for a second title in three seasons, are fresh from a convincing win over reigning champions and neighbours Omagh, while Ardboe have re-emerged to challenge for a first success since 1998, having defeated Clonoe and Trillick.
Danny Gorman could be handed the job of shadowing Ardboe attacker David Mulgrew, while Michael O'Neill looks like the perfect choice to track the surging runs of Killyclogher's Tiernan McCann.
Match-ups all over the field will be vital, and Ardboe will need to close down ace attacker Mark Bradley. If the game is close going into the closing stages, Shay McGuigan could be the man for the moment. He has scored late winners in both of the Rossas' previous games – a goal against Clonoe, and a point to deny Trillick.
“We're in the last four now, and we just want to get to a championship final at this stage,” said Killyclogher manager Dominic Corrigan.
“We have the quality, and if we keep improving, and keep focusing on ourselves, then we'll be happy enough.”
Corrigan has his side operating at full output once again following the return of his county trio in the wake of Tyrone's run to the All-Ireland final.
Tiernan and Conall McCann and Mark Bradley have re-integrated with their club colleagues, and all three were supremely effective in the six points win over holders Omagh in the quarter-final.
“It takes time for the county men to get back into the groove, but our three county men are three outstanding club leaders, on and off the pitch.
“They set the tone, the rest follow, and it gives the thing a great lift.”
Corrigan is looking to build on an impressive performance against Omagh, when the St Mary's turned on the style in the second half to carve out a 1-12 to 0-9 win.
“That was our best second half of the year, and we needed it, because Omagh were great champions, they weren't going to hand over the trophy, we had to go and take it off them, and that's what we did in the second half.”
Ardboe manager Gavin Wylie played on the last team to bring the O'Neill Cup back to the lough shore in 1998, a year in which he also won an All-Ireland Minor medal.
The talent within the squad is beyond question, but morale-boosting wins over Clonoe and Trillick have raised confidence levels among his players.
“We feel we can play against anybody. We can play against the Errigals, the Coalislands, Killycloghers, Omaghs,” said Wylie.
“On our day, we feel we can give them a good game.”
For the Rossas boss, there was no long-term plan, just a game-by-game approach, and now he's in bonus territory.
“To get over the first round was our goal, and now we have reassessed, looked at it again, and the semi-final was our goal.
“It's just about building up that bit of momentum. The first game is always the hardest for us, but once you build up that bit of momentum, the confidence lifts.
“It lifts the community, it lifts Ardboe, and it's great for the club as a whole.”