Trillick pose danger to Coalisland hopes of retaining Tyrone championship
LCC Group Tyrone Senior Football Championship: Coalisland v Trillick
Champions Coalisland face a very real threat to their Red Hand supremacy when they take on an in-form Trillick side in tomorrow's (Sunday) LCC Group Tyrone SFC semi-final.
This Plunkett Park tie (1.30pm) arguably features the two main contenders for the 2019 title as two teams dripping with inter-county stars face off.
Coalisland defenders Padraig Hampsey and Michael McKernan will come into direct combat with Mattie Donnelly and Lee Brennan, two men they have battled alongside in the colours of Tyrone on many occasions.
Trillick also have Richie Donnelly and Rory Brennan at the core of a well organised side that plays to an effective system.
But it could be an Tyrone U20 star – James Garrity of Trillick or Coalisland's Tiarnan Quinn – who emerges as a match-winner.
Quinn scored both goals in the semi-final victory over Killyclogher, while Garrity's vision and creativity was key to the five points success that saw the Reds over the line against Clonoe.
The contributions of Trillick's Daire Gallagher. Ruairi Kelly and Ryan Gray will also be crucial, while Coalisland will need big performances from skipper Stephen McNally, Plunkett Kane and Peter Herron.
Trillick manager Nigel Seaney has been at the coal face of Tyrone championship football for several seasons now, and he sees no signs of the ferocity of its competitiveness waning.
“On any given day, if you don't produce you're A game, you're out,” he said.
“It's a top championship, top teams in it, and that's why championship medals in Tyrone are so precious, they're not easy earned.
Seaney guided the Reds to a surprise championship triumph in 2015, in the club's first season back in senior football after winning promotion, but the going has been tough in the intervening years as they struggled to remain at the top.
“We won it very young, and we had a couple of seasoned players who retired shortly after it,” he said.
“I think the players have taken the learnings of the last couple of years. The mistakes made in the last couple of years were probably mistakes made through immaturity it the squad more than anything – not controlling sizeable leads in knock-out games.
“I think in the last two games, we have been more street-wise in that regard.”
Coalisland manager Damian O'Hagan insisted that the defending champions will not go into tomorrow's game as favourites.
“Trillick is a massive task, they have been the favourite team all year, and I suppose they're suffering from last year when they lost to Ardboe,” he said.
“People have been saying that it was their championship to lose last year. But you have to win every game.
“It's good for us not to have the favourites task in this game, so it will be an interesting day.”
O'Hagan feels he has struck the optimum balance between youth and experience in his Fianna side.
“There's a lot of experience and a lot of youth, a good mixture in our team.
“We're a good side, but we're missing a few key players that were on the side last year who are away travelling for a year or more.
“But the lads that have come in have worked hard, and all you can do is work with the lads you have, and it's a pleasure to be working with them, because they're giving it all and they're doing all we're asking of them.”
Both sides will have a familiarity with Plunkett Park, having played their semi-finals on a double bill at the Pomeroy venue last weekend.
LCC Group Tyrone Senior Football Championship: Errigal Ciaran v Carrickmore
An enduring rivalry will be renewed at Dungannon tomorrow (Sunday) when Errigal Ciaran and Carrickmore meet in the LCC Tyrone SFC semi-final (5pm)
Both teams are building towards a return to greatness following a lengthy spell without a title, Errigal's last success achieved back in 2006, Carmen's a year earlier.
Memories of fierce encounters between these neighbouring clubs back in the nineties and into the noughties will fuel anticipation of what is expected to be another compelling contest.
Between 1994 and 2006 they met in five county finals, winning two each, the most recent decided by a replay in Errigal's favour.
Several members of both sides possess championship medals, but only after tomorrow's eliminator will any of them contemplate another.
The focus is entirely on derby day at O'Neill Park and on the massive effort it will take to earn a place in the decider.
Errigal will go in with confidence following their impressive semi-final win over Omagh, while Carrickmore will take heart from the resilience they showed in in winning a replay against Edendork.
But that was just four days ago, and with recovery time at a premium, weary legs could become an issue for them.
Errigal have firepower in Darragh Canavan, Pauric McAnenly and Darren Canavan, with Peter Harte and Ben McDonnell working the middle third, while Aidan McCrory, Niall Kelly and Ciaran Quinn are experienced defenders.
Carrickmore attackers Martin Penrose, a two-goal semi-final hero, is still going strong, with scoring threat also coming from Ciaran Daly and Barry Daly.
And they will look to Brendan McLaughlin, Cormac Munroe and Mickey Donaghy to close down a dangerous opposing attacking unit.
“It's nice to be there, and as much as we want to win, Errigal are going to be the same, and the two of us are going to have to go hell for leather to get through to the final,” said Carrickmore manager Ryan Daly, who recalled a spell of intense rivalry when both clubs were in their pomp.
“In the nineties, it was super. I think there was nearly ten years that the two teams went toe-to-toe.
“Even though the clubs keep talking about it, and everybody remembers it, these are two totally different teams.
“Some of these lads mightn't remember the glory days that the both clubs had.”
Daly accepts that the short turnaround from their midweek replay against Edendork adds extra physical pressure.
“Sometimes it can be a negative, sometimes it can work to your advantage, so we're going to try to get our players fresh, because the five-day turnaround is short.
“But we haven't been in a semi-final in a long time, and we'll be delighted to be going to Dungannon on Sunday at five o' clock.”
Meanwhile, Errigal Ciaran assistant manager Chris ‘Tiffy' Quinn is hoping the exciting youngsters in the Dunmoyle side can rise to the challenge and make a big statement.
“We have young boys that really want to lead, that really want to be in front.
“But we're only in the semi-final, so we won't get carried away,” he said.
“We'll give them the utmost respect, and hopefully we'll get over the line and get into the final.”
Quinn feels the race for the O'Neill Cup is wide open, with any one of the remaining four clubs capable of emerging triumphant.
“Anybody can win it. The one thing about the Tyrone Championship, if you don't perform on the day, you're out. In other championships, you might get another wee chance.”