Comeback kings Coalisland ready for another roll of the dice

Plunkett Kane (left) was one of the Coalisland veterans who sparked their comeback against Errigal Ciaran in the Tyrone SFC semi-final that sets up a meeting with Dromore in the O’Neill Cup decider on Sunday week. Picture: Seamus Loughran.
Francis Mooney

THE great survivors of Tyrone football are at it again.

Comeback specialists Coalisland have snatched victory from the cusp of defeat on three occasions to hustle their way through to the senior championship final.

Drama has followed them every step of the way as they gambled at the death, and on each occasion a final throw of the dice has paid off.

Trailing by eight points to Edendork, they stood on the brink of first round elimination, but fought back to win it with last gasp goals from Stephen McNally and Peter Herron.

Carrickmore also appeared to have done enough to progress when they led by two heading into the closing stages of the quarter-final, but a monster free from Cormac O'Hagan was followed by a late Tiarnan Quinn winner.

And last Sunday's semi-final fightback trumped them all as they overturned a seven points deficit with 13 men, hitting late goals through Jason Carberry, Tiarnan Quinn and Brian Toner, before another O'Hagan special stunned Errigal Ciaran.

“I knew we had to go to the well again,” said Jason Carberry, whose 51st minute goal sparked the mayhem that engulfed Plunkett Park on a crazy Sunday afternoon.

“At that stage of the game, I don't think we had scored in the second half up until that.

“The goal opportunity came and I just had to go for it. Lucky enough it went in and it gave us a wee boost.”

Michael McKernan had been sent off by that stage, but more was to follow, with Tiarnan Quinn netting a penalty and Brian Toner firing in a third goal, all within six minutes of madness as they also lost Peter Herron to a red card.

“We got a bit of luck at the end with a couple of goals, but we'll take them all,” said midfielder Carberry.

“It was the same against Edendork, it was the same against Carrickmore. Our backs were against the wall.

“We haven't played well all year, we have been useless in the league, but we knew that if we could get the heads right we could get results.

“Even in this game we weren't great, but we knew even at seven points down we could do it. We have done it before.”

The 29-year-old never lost his trust in the indomitable battling spirit that has been the hallmark of Fianna teams for generations.

“We just won't die, we go to the very end, 67 minutes and we were still there.”

It was the veterans of the team, the likes of Plunkett Kane, Stephen McNally and Brian Toner who engineered the great escape that sets up a meeting with Dromore in the O'Neill Cup decider on Sunday week.

“Those boys are maybe 35, 36 years old, but they have the bodies and the fitness of a 28-year-old ... they're machines.

“They know how to play the game and they have the experience to get over the line, so we knew those boys would stick with it to the very end. And the younger boys stood up too.”

Now the Fianna are preparing to meet another team that has displayed powers of survival in this year's championship.

Dromore have twice gone to extra-time, and came from behind last weekend to oust title favourites Trillick.

“This last few years we have been there or thereabouts. It's nice to get to a final, but you want to win a final when you're there,” Carberry said.

“Dromore will not be easy, they played a tremendous game against Trillick. It will be tough again, but hopefully we'll get over the line.

“We'll put the work in, put the effort in, and we'll play to the last minute, and we'll be there or thereabouts.”

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