Trillick start Tyrone SFC title defence against Eglish

The draw has thrown up some tasty local derbies

Trillick are aiming to complete a League and Championship double in Tyrone.
Trillick celebrate their 2023 title win

TYRONE county champions Trillick have been drawn to face Eglish in the first defence of their title.

And it’s a must-win game for the St Macartan’s if they are to become the first club to retain the O’Neill Cup in almost two decades, as the series will be once again run on a straight knock-out format this year.

All eyes will be on the holders when they put their Connollys of Moy-sponsored title on the line in September, but their meeting with Eglish is just one of a number of intriguing first-round ties drawn at Garvaghey on Wednesday evening.

Last year’s beaten champions Errigal Ciaran will take on the newly promoted Intermediate champions Pomeroy.

Carrickmore, beaten finalists in 2022, are set to face Dromore in a high-profile tie, and there are three mouth-watering local derby ties, with Omagh set to face Killyclogher, Coalisland to take on Clonoe and Dungannon paired with Donaghmore.

Ardboe will play Edendork, and Loughmacrory, who took eventual champions Trillick to extra-time and penalties last year, are preparing for a first-round meeting with Galbally.

The Tyrone championship is notoriously competitive, and renowned as one of the most difficult to win in the entire country, and one of the few to maintain its traditional knock-out structure.

“It’s clearly the best championship in Ireland, you know that from the crowds that the games attract and the competitiveness of the matches,” said county chairman Martin Sludden, who conducted the draw, along with Vivian Connolly, managing director of competition sponsor Connollys of Moy and CCC chairman Raymond Monteith.

“It’s what Championship is about, it’s a knock-out competition, you get one go at it on the first day, and that’s what it is.

“A lot of other counties have group competitions, home and away fixtures, but I think that what we have is the best.”

The last club to put championship titles back-to-back was Carrickmore, with its 2005 triumph, but the county’s most successful club, with a total of 15 titles, has not won the trophy since.

In the meantime, eight different clubs have been crowned champions, but none has succeeded in successfully defending the O’Neill Cup.

“You have to go back to 2005 for the last back-to-back, when Carrickmore win two in a row, but since 2005, every team has failed. No other team has done that since then,” said Sludden.

And he said the fierce competitive nature and the unpredictability of the series makes it a big attraction for attendees from other counties.

“We see people from other counties attending the games, people you recognise from all parts, whether it’s the McHughs from Kilcar, the McCarrons of Scotstown, the Conways of Ballinderry, the Joneses of Derrygonnelly, all people keen to come down and watch our games. It just shows you what a big attraction our championship is.”

Connollys of Moy Tyrone SFC

Round one Omagh v Killyclogher; Carrickmore v Dromore; Errigal Ciaran v Pomeroy; Coalisland v Clonoe; Trillick v Eglish; Ardboe v Edendork; Loughmacrory v Galbally; Dungannon v Donaghmore

Connollys of Moy Tyrone IFC

Round one Stewartstown v Rock; Naomh Eoghan v Moy; Drumragh v Beragh; Kildress v Greencastle; Cookstown v Aghyaran; Moortown v Fintona; Owen Roes v Gortin; Derrylaughan v Clogher

Connollys of Moy Tyrone JFC

Preliminary round Brackaville v Augher

Round one Castlederg v Brocagh; Eskra v Aghaloo; Errigal Ciaran III v Killyman; Glenelly v Urney; Killeeshil v Clann na nGael; Drumquin v Prelim; Tattyreagh v Derrytresk; Donaghmore III v Strabane