GAA Football

Trillick big guns flex their muscle to edge thriller

Coalisland's Bailey Leonard trying to slip the ball past Trillick's 'keeper, Joe Maguire
From Cahair O'Kane at Pomeroy

LCC Tyrone SFC semi-final: Trillick 0-13 Coalisland 0-12

DEATH, taxes and nobody retaining the Tyrone championship. Certainties are infrequent at best, but this has become one you could almost stake the house on.

14 years since Carrickmore were the last back-to-back winners, Coalisland’s reign looked as though it would remain intact at half-time in a packed Pomeroy yesterday. They’d played into a stiff wind and led a fancied Trillick side by 0-9 to 0-7.

“They’re rattled boys, they’re rattled” could be heard from the blue corps as they left the pitch for the interval. They weren’t lying.

While ownership of the ball was pretty much 50-50, Coalisland were getting down the middle of the Trillick defence, whereas it was all out to the wings at the other end.

Trillick struggled amid fierce pressure on their own kickout and Coalisland twice fashioned goal chances off it, but both were pointed, the second of them fizzling out when Tiarnan Quinn couldn’t gather a wayward pass first time when they had a 3-on-2.

He hit two beauties off the outside of the left in the first period and brother Cathaoir contributed two points himself for a side that was held together by Stephen McNally and driven by Michael McKernan.

The Hampsey brothers did their job in the first half too, with Paudie keeping county team-mate Mattie Donnelly to the game’s first score and Eoghan Hampsey keeping Lee Brennan off the scoresheet from play.

Brennan did nail two brilliant frees and the way he cut them through the wind in the second half to add another four from dead balls was a sublime factor in Trillick’s victory.

So too was Mattie Donnelly absolutely dominating Hampsey in the second half and running the game while his brother Richie, who kicked two first half points, showed his class with a series of brilliant fetches.

In outstanding full-back Ruairi Kelly they had another match-winner, while up front lively teenager James Garrity was a constant thorn and did an excellent tracking job when brought out on to McKernan at half-time.

From there, Nigel Seaney’s side went man-to-man and threw everything they had at it. The two point deficit didn’t hang about for long and prior to stoppage time, they kept the Island to just a single point for 30 minutes.

The rattle changed hands. Coalisland could find no groove in the game. Richie Donnelly was catching or breaking everything, Trillick were owning the ball and getting their wealth of quality operators into the game.

There might have been just nine scores in the second half, four of them beyond the 55th minute, but you’d hardly have noticed. It was a gripping and thoroughly enjoyable encounter.

It was meaty and physical, but the quality of football – and particularly the quality of defending and score-taking – was top drawer.

While gracious Coalisland boss Damien O’Hagan paid tribute to deserving winners, he rued what he felt were “missed chances to put Trillick away”. Those were few and far between after half-time. They had just 10 meaningful attacks in the whole second half, compared to the winners’ 17, and it was only some loose decision making by Trillick in the final few minutes that opened the window.

But Coalisland did have one great goal chance for Peter Herron at 0-11 to 0-10 down, only to see Ruairi Kelly get back on the line and block it clear.

Leading 0-13 to 0-10 going into four minutes of stoppage time, the 2015 champions seemed to have the work done but two long balls towards sub Peter McGahan caused a bit of havoc, and Paddy McNeice managed to raise white flags to ensure a tense finish.

And when they won a last-gasp free just outside the 45’, it seemed set for Cormac O’Hagan, who’d nailed two beauties of his own from the deck. But his effort went off to the right and the Trillick bench exploded on to the pitch in celebration.

“If you take a look at Omagh in the semi-final a couple of years ago, we were six up and didn’t manage the game well. To repeat it last year against Ardboe was exceptionally poor. This year, players are more aware of those sorts of things and we controlled it a bit better,” said Trillick boss Seaney.

“Of the 2015 team, six of that team were beaten in the minor final the year before. They were 18, 19. They went to college, they’ve had the craic and grew up a wee bit. They’ve worked on their game and that group – the Grays, the Garritys - have grown in their leadership qualities.”

Those qualities will get a serious test from Errigal Ciaran in two weeks’ time. That’s a final you don’t want to miss.


Trillick: J Maguire; S O’Donnell, R Kelly, D Kelly; M Gallagher, D Gallagher, G McCarron; R Donnelly (0-2), R Brennan; L Gray, N Donnelly, R Gray (0-2); L Brennan (0-6, 0-4 frees, 0-2 45s), M Donnelly (0-2), J Garrity (0-1)

Sub: N Gormley for M Gallagher (64)

Black cards: N Donnelly (43) replaced by S Garrity; D Gallagher (54) replaced by D McDonnell

Yellow cards: J Garrity (42), D Kelly (49)

Coalisland: P Donnelly; C Doyle, P Hampsey, E Hampsey; M McKernan (0-2), S McNally, N Kerr; P Kane, B Toner; P Herron, C O’Hagan (0-2, 0-1 free, 0-1 45’), B Leonard; T Quinn (0-3), P McNeice (0-2, 0-1 free), C Quinn (0-2)

Sub: P McGahan (0-1) for C Quinn (54)

Black cards: N Kerr (59) replaced by L O’Neill; M McKernan (64) replaced by S Corr

Yellow cards: B Toner (45), B Leonard (47)

Referee: S Hurson (Galbally)

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