Strong second half sees Coalisland into decider
Donnelly Vauxhall Tyrone SFC semi-final: Coalisland 0-14 Clonoe 0-8
COALISLAND turned the screw in the second half to get the better of Clonoe at the second attempt and set up a meeting with Killyclogher in next weekend’s Donnelly Vauxhall Tyrone SFC final.
The Fianna wore their opponents down and struck for vital scores while playing into the wind in the latter stages of this replay at O’Neill Park yesterday.
They had played most of last week’s drawn game with 14 men, following the early dismissal of Peter Donnelly, but he had that red card rescinded, and was one of several experienced men who played key roles in this deserved success.
Stephen McNally, Philip Toner, Plunkett Kane, Louis O’Neill, Dermot Thornton and Brian Toner, all O’Neill Cup winners when Coalisland last contested a final in 2010, contributed handsomely as the O’Rahilly’s, on the road on five successive weekends, finally ran out of steam.
But the most valuable player was full-back Padraig Hampsey, who snuffed out the threat of Danny McNulty, holding the Clonoe front man to just one point from play over two games.
Coalisland, with the wind at their backs, took an early lead through Stephen McNally and Dermot Thornton, and with Hampsey shadowing Clonoe front man McNulty, they looked solid at the back.
Declan McClure sent over a wonderful opening point for the O’Rahilly’s, but still they struggled to break down a solid Fianna rearguard which had Niall Kerr and Peter Donnelly standing firm at its heart.
Cormac O’Hagan and Thornton added further scores for Coalisland, and when a sloppy free kick went astray around midfield, defender Michael McKernan galloped through acres of unguarded territory to make it 0-5 to 0-1.
Clonoe did finally start to make inroads late in the half, with McAliskey rescuing a lost cause at the end line to squeeze over a point from a tight angle, and a McNulty free further narrowed the gap.
And deep in stoppage time, Dwayne Quinn made an intercept around midfield to send Paul Coney in to score, cutting the gap to two, and they trailed by 0-6 to 0-4 at the break.
After the restart, Coalisland manager John McKeever got exactly what he had asked for in the dressing room.
“There was serious intensity and effort. Listen, there was a few words at half-time, a few serious words, and the boys came out focused in the second half,” he said.
“We felt we hadn’t done ourselves justice in the first half. We felt we had controlled the game, but a few mistakes had let them back into it again.
“But we got ourselves under control at half-time, we got ourselves settled. The first 10 minutes of the second half were going to be important, and we came out of the blocks fast and put them to the sword, and we’re happy about that.”
Coalisland were supremely effective on the counter-attack in the third quarter, cancelling out McNulty’s early free with a volley of scores, two of them from the hard-working Philip Toner, the other a gem from McNally from a tight angle.
All those raids owed their energy to sound defending, with McKernan proving an effective link man and Louis O’Neill providing sound support for Hampsey further back. Clonoe had to work extremely hard for any scoring chance they got, and each time they pulled back a point, Coalisland were able to hit them with two in reply.
A strong bench was another asset, Cathaoir Quinn coming in to dance through for a delightful point off his first play, and with 10 minutes to play, the lead had stretched out to five.
McNulty converted his third free, but he was living off scraps, and marker Hampsey piled on the misery by pushing forward to slot over a point.
That was the signal that this game was only going to have one winner, and the Coalisland men made it an emphatic verdict with further points from McKernan and Thornton.