O'Hagan knows his 'place' in Coalisland team that refuses to give up
EVERY successful team possesses a reliable place-kicker, a man with a trusted striking action and a cool head under pressure.
In Cormac O’Hagan, Coalisland have a free kick specialist who has dug them out of many holes over the past few seasons.
Once again he stood up and met the challenge last Sunday, drilling a monster 55-metre kick between the posts with a lethal left boot to draw his side level in the closing stages of a cliff-hanger against Carrickmore.
Tiarnan Quinn followed up with the winner to send the Fianna through to the Tyrone SFC semi-finals.
But it was O’Hagan’s seven points haul, five of them from frees, that made all the difference in front of a big crowd at Galbally.
“As soon as it left the boot, I just had a good feeling about it. Luckily, with the wind at my back, I could see it coming round,” he said of that crucial late equaliser.
“It’s just good that I was able to nail them.”
It was all looking good for the Blues as they established a narrow lead over Carmen after 25 minutes of the first half while playing into a strong wind.
But five quick-fire scores sent the St Colmcilles in with a 0-6 to 0-2 advantage, leaving Coalisland with it all to do.
“We felt the last five minutes of the first half really un-did the good 25 minutes that we had put in.
“Defensively, I thought we were very sound, especially against a strong breeze,” said O’Hagan.
“We were disappointed, and we knew that those last five minutes weren’t a reflection on how good we were performing in the first half, and we really left ourselves with it all to do.”
Carrickmore, the sleeping giant of Tyrone football, have been building steadily over the past couple of seasons, presenting a strong case for an imminent breakthrough.
It was perfectly set up for a tight contest between two evenly matched sides, and that’s exactly what unfolded.
“We know the pedigree that Carrickmore come with. They haven’t really been there or thereabouts this last couple of years, but they have a serious set of youth coming through and that’s the foundation for their team now.
“When we met them in the league at the start of the year we knew how intense they were, how hard-hitting they were in the tackle, how fit they are.
“Championship football is what it’s all about, and we put in a good six or seven weeks over the summer when Tyrone were going well, and thankfully it has stuck to us.
“Even with the conditions, our ball handling skills really shone through.”
In the end, the influence of Coalisland’s senior players, particularly experienced trio Plunkett Kane, Stephen McNally and Brian Toner, pulled them through in a tactical battle of wits and endurance.
“They are probably the three Rolls Royces at the club. To have Brian Toner coming off the bench is great, his vision to put a pass into the full forward line is second to none.
“And Plunkett and Mackers, just how fit they keep themselves throughout the year is amazing. Football is everything to us in Coalisland and there’s nobody with more love in their heart for Coalisland Fianna than those three.”
Now they’re preparing to face Errigal Ciaran’s attacking firepower in Sunday’s semi-final, but O’Hagan is confident that Coalisland have the defensive steel to meet the challenge.
“I think our defence is one of the best in the county. We have Michael (McKernan) and we have Paudie (Hampsey), and they’re probably the two best man-markers on the Tyrone team.
“With their leadership in there, there’s no reason why in a week’s time we can’t be preparing for a championship final.”