GAA Football

Defeat of Coalisland can help Killyclogher establish golden era but Damian O'Hagan points to winning resolve

Killyclogher and Tyrone ace Mark Bradley. Picture by Seamus Loughran..
Francis Mooney

Tyrone Tyrone Senior Club Football Championship final: Sunday October 21 at 4pm: Healy Park, Omagh: Killyclogher v Coalisland

Killyclogher and Coalisland meet in the decider for the second time in three years as another fiercely competitive Tyrone Senior Club Football Championship series reaches a climax tomorrow.

Killyclogher needed a replay to get over the line in 2016, but they'll be looking to clinch this one at the first attempt and take another confident step towards establishing a golden era for the club.

Having qualified for three of the last four deciders, the St Mary's are currently enjoying their most successful spell, and getting the best out of a group of exceptionally gifted footballers has been the primary goal of manager Dominic Corrigan.

“The club are very lucky to have a very special group of players in place there at the minute, highly ambitious, fiercely committed and fiercely driven to succeed,” said Corrigan.

“Some of them have been about a long time, going back to 2003, when some of them featured on the championship winning team.

“They have been around the block, they have tasted a lot of bad times, but they have now got the scent of the good times and they certainly want to keep that going.”

While Killyclogher are very much a modern-day force, having won the O'Neill Cup just twice (the first in 2003), Coalisland can reflect on a proud history which has seen them crowned county champions nine times, their title triumphs stretching back to 1905.

Manager Damian O'Hagan feels his players have a resolve in their hearts that they will avenge a heavy defeat in the 2016 replay.

“It was a very heavy defeat, but in saying that, Coalisland should have won the first day, the drawn match,” he said.

“They're back in the final, and in fairness to them, they deserve it.

“They missed the day in the drawn game against Killyclogher, they had their chances to win it. We lost out in the replay, we lost out badly, but this is a different team now.

“There's a lot more maturity in it as regards the young boys that played that day, who have matured. Hopefully that maturity will see us through in the final.”

With some exciting attacking talent on both sides, getting the match-ups right has been a priority for the management teams at Ballinamullan and Fr Peter Campbell Park.

Padraig Hampsey has perfected the art of man-marking with Tyrone and the Fianna, and he could be handed the task of curbing county colleague Mark Bradley, whose eight scores helped Killyclogher to a 14 points win in that rematch two years ago.

Offensive plays crafted around surging runs from deep by Tiernan McCann and teenager Matthew Murnaghan are a feature of the St Mary's approach, and they will ask serious questions of tracking opponents such as Eoghan Carberry and Peter Herron.

But Herron can also cause damage with his energy and direct and fearless running, with Gabhan Sludden possibly being tasked to pick up the emerging Fianna star.

Pace and penetration will also come from Coalisland wing back Michael McKernan, who may find himself being closed down by the hard-working Nathan Donnelly, while discipline will also be important at the back for Killyclogher, given the place-kicking expertise of Paddy McNeice and Cormac O'Hagan.

En route to the final, Killyclogher confidently dealt with the challenges of Derrylaughan and defending champions Omagh, winning by comfortable margins, but in the semi-final, they needed a late Conall McCann goal to salvage a draw with Ardboe.

Their exceptional levels of fitness, facilitated by former Tyrone trainer Fergal McCann, came to the fore in extra-time, as they emerged with a three-point win.

Manager Corrigan said: “The team is in great shape, and I give great credit to Fergal McCann, our trainer, for that. Fergal came in at the start of the year. He has great experience behind him of training the Tyrone ‘05 and '08 teams, and he has used that experience to make sure that at the right time of year, we would be in top shape.

“Fergal told the players at the start not to be panicking if they're not flying in May, June, July, because in Tyrone now, there really is two seasons -the March to June/July time, which is purely league, and then you have got to re-focus. It's like a new season then, when championship starts at the end of August.

“I would give Fergal great credit in that he made sure we were right for September/October.”

Coalisland have been taken to the brink in every game their largest margin of victory a two-point defeat of last year's beaten finalists Errigal Ciaran.

They had just a point to spare in their meetings with Dromore and neighbours Edendork.

“It's been a total slog the whole way,” O'Hagan admitted.

“But in some ways that's a good thing, because they have shown their commitment to the whole thing, and they have shown that there's a back-bone in the team, and the will to win is there.”

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