Dromore's Conor O'Hara hoping for third time lucky as he enters provincial fray again with Dromore

'Dromore captain Conor O Hara lifts the O'Neill Cup after his team defeated Coalisland in the Tyrone senior football final at Healy Park. Picture by Seamus Loughran
Francis Mooney

DROMORE captain Conor O’Hara’s appetite for Ulster Club Championship action hasn’t been compromised by the sour taste of past experience.

His two previous appearances have resulted in first round defeats, but he leads the Tyrone champions into Saturday’s clash with Derrygonnelly with renewed enthusiasm.

It’s 10 years since the St Dympna’s last took to the provincial stage, when they lost narrowly to Ballinderry. Two seasons earlier, it was Clontibret who brought an end to the Tyrone champions’ title bid.

“It was disappointing to get beaten in those games, because it’s a great competition to play in, and any club player would want to pit himself against the best,” said O’Hara.

“And when you’re playing Ulster club you’re pitting yourself against the best.

“We were disappointed in those years not to get over the line. The Ballinderry game in 2011 was a tight game coming into the closing stages.

“But I think Ballinderry’s experience probably just took us that day.”

Through the years it has been common for the Tyrone SFC final to precede the provincial competition by just a week, leaving the Red Hand champions little time to prepare for the Ulster series.

But this time, Dromore have had a three-week break since lifting their fourth county title with a 0-15 to 0-8 win over Coalisland in the final.

Dromore's Conor O'Hara Picture by Seamus Loughran

“It’s nice get a break, it allowed us to celebrate and savour the moment after the county final.

“In 2011 we were out the week after and it was a whirlwind of a week. It always is a whirlwind of a week after you win a county title, and we were into the game before we really knew it, and it was very hard to prepare.

“But we’re lucky this time in that we have got the three weeks to recover and prepare, get our training right and get the bodies right for the game, and the minds right as well.

“So it’s definitely a plus to get these three weeks to prepare for it.”

Derrygonnelly travel to Carrickmore this weekend as Fermanagh champions for the sixth time in seven years, a team with a formidable record and extensive experience of the provincial scene.

O’Hara (31) is one of just a handful of Dromore players who have been there, along with Niall Sludden, Ronan McNabb, Sean McNabb and Eoin McCusker.

“Their players know the Ulster scene inside out, they’re a very experienced team and we’ll have to be at ourselves to mix it with them,” said the St Dympna’s skipper.

Several of Dromore’s rising stars have had a tasted of provincial success, however, having won the Ulster U21 Championship title in 2019.

“When you’re a young player playing in that competition, it’s as big as any Ulster competition, and it was huge for those boys when they won it.

“And now you have teams like Glenn and Clann Eireann, who played in those U21 championships now playing in this year’s Ulster Club senior championship.

“It was definitely an experience for those young players, and hopefully it will help our boys going into the Ulster Club, that they have that bit of Ulster experience at that level.”

The Erne title-holders will set up defensively and attempt to frustrate the Red Hand men at Pairc Colmcille.

“They’re definitely well organised, they defend well, and they’re a big strong, physical team. you have to be at yourself to break them down.”

But corner back O’Hara feels his side has enough talented, pacy players to stretch their opponents and carve out scoring opportunities.

“We have good pace throughout the team, and we will be looking to take our game to Derrygonnelly as best we can.

“That’s all we can really do, is to focus on ourselves and try and play our own game and try to play the best we can.”

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