GAA Football

Red letter day: Trillick get the better of Errigal

Brothers Liam and Ryan Gray celebrate at the final whistle. Picture by Philip Walsh
Cahair O'Kane at Healy Park

LCC Tyrone SFC final: Trillick 0-12 Errigal Ciaran 2-4

DROMORE, Clonoe, Coalisland, Errigal Ciaran. There are no easy Tyrone championships, but there were few harder earned than the one earned by Trillick yesterday in far more convincing fashion than the scoreline suggests.

“The Reds are back boys” bellowed captain Stephen O’Donnell from the pulpit as he raised the O’Neill Cup for the eighth time in the club’s history, having dominated most of a game that was majorly disappointing as a spectacle.

That it was so poor perhaps speaks volumes for Trillick's maturity and control of it. They trailed for just six minutes in the entire game and were in front for all but 16.

There was always a sense that they had a handle on proceedings, even if it took until the middle of the second half for them to finally create daylight.

Rory Brennan’s man-of-the-match display shut down Errigal’s key attacking threat in Peter Harte. While he still finished with 1-3 of their 2-4, all but a point came from dead balls. 

None of the rest of their forwards scored a point, and their other goal came from a goalkeeping mistake early on.

Trillick had scored three points inside four minutes in a brilliant start, with Errigal’s defensive plan looking shaky as Michael Gallagher in particular kept striding up unmarked.

But out of nowhere, teenager Odhran Robinson’s pressure on ‘keeper Joe Maguire paid off as he robbed the Trillick ‘keeper of the ball and hooked it into the empty net. 

When Harte sent the dividends of a high ball over the black spot second later, the Ballygawley men led by 1-1 to 0-3.

Both teams played Stay Out Of There football in a first half for which turgid would almost be too kind a word. 

As the defensive side planted 13 men into their own 45’, the other team played on the fringes, leading to long spells of nothingness.

Trillick, though, had more platforms.

They dominated the middle of the park, with only some excellently placed kicks to the wings by Darragh McAnenly finding any respite. 

When it went long, Richie Donnelly dominated Ben McDonnell in the air and with brother Mattie and Liam Gray in around the middle in the first half, Trillick owned a lot of the ball.

Still, if there was a worry for them, it was the way in which Pascal Canavan’s defence settled and started to force them wide, much as Coalisland had done in the first half of the semi-final.

Niall Kelly dropped off as the sweeper and Trillick started to get turned over when they tried to force a hole down the middle. 

Errigal kept the hunger off with those turnovers, but they never feasted on it.

Their own attack was left very bare in terms of numbers, and that was something they could ill-afford in the surprise injury-enforced absence from the starting team of Darragh Canavan.

It was 0-5 to 1-1 at the interval, with James Garrity levelling from a fine effort in which he beat Aidan McCrory to a 50-50, and then Lee Brennan slotted over a free from beyond the 45’ on a day where his outstanding kicking paid tribute to the late Ray Cassidy, the original classy free-taker for Trillick who passed away recently.

That Brennan 45’ was nine minutes from half-time and yet the last score before the short whistle.

Errigal’s gameplan revolved around the high ball. Trillick had been exposed on it against Clonoe, but they’d learned. Ruairi Kelly has been one of the stars of their run and was outstanding once more at full-back. His corner men, Stephen O’Donnell and Damien Kelly, were just as secure.

With Daire Gallagher dropping off to great effect, they were never under any duress in the air. And so with Peter Harte tied up, Darragh Canavan chained to the bench for 40 minutes and the long ball shut off, the league leaders went 38 minutes without a score.

Trillick also reacted to the way in which Errigal had forced them wide. Against Coalisland, it was bringing Mattie Donnelly out that turned the game. This time, it was putting him in.

He went to full-forward and of their seven second half points, he scored two and had a telling hand in another three. 

Ciarán Quinn had done well in the first half but the second period presented a different scenario.

When Errigal Ciaran broke that 38-minute run without a score, it was corner-back Cormac Quinn who did it. 

Mattie Donnelly fired over again at the other way and it told a tale about Trillick’s defensive display that Peter Harte’s 47th minute score from a free was their first scoreable free all game.

They were still within touching distance at two when he slotted it over, and that’s how they finished, but their need to push on and chase the game left gaps which Trillick exposed.

From a free and a 45’ – the latter when Liam Gray’s poke was cleared off the line by Damian McDermott - Lee Brennan sandwiched a score by Damien Kelly that pushed the gap out to five heading towards the death.

Peter Harte kept trying to force it but found himself again thwarted by a touch that sent a low effort away for a 45’, and then an outstanding block by Rory Brennan.

Moments later, Brennan was off galloping up the park and setting up Richie Donnelly, who knew before it left his boot that he could salute their emotional support in the stand.

Five up, Trillick conceded the softest of penalties in stoppage time when Pauric McAnenly went down. Harte stuck the penalty away but the kickout was all there was left.

“It was a big challenge for [the young players] to step up to the plate today surely but the challenge now is to keep their feet on the ground and continue to play at that level, to move it forward again,” said Reds boss Nigel Seaney.

The next level is one that Tyrone club champions have continually and inexplicably struggled with. They certainly the tools to change the county’s record in the Ulster Club. Starting with either Cargin or Derrygonnelly in three weeks’ time, they could be a force to reckon with.

The Reds are back, boys.

MATCH STATS
Trillick: J Maguire; S O’Donnell, R Kelly, D Kelly (0-1); M Gallagher (0-1), R Brennan, D Gallagher; R Donnelly (0-1), G McCarron; L Gray, N Donnelly, R Gray (0-1); L Brennan (0-5, 0-3 frees, 0-1 45’), M Donnelly (0-2), J Garrity (0-1)
Subs: N Gormley for N Donnelly (58), Darragh McQuaid for M Gallagher (63)
Yellow cards: R Brennan (28)

Errigal Ciaran: D McAnenly; Ciarán Quinn, A McCrory, Cormac Quinn (0-1); S Tierney, N Kelly, P O’Hanlon; B McDonnell, E Kelly; P McAnenly, P Harte (1-3, 1-0pen, 0-1 free, 0-1 45’), M Kavanagh; O Robinson (1-0), Darren Canavan, R McRory
Subs: J Oguz for Robinson (HT), D McDermott for O’Hanlon (39), Darragh Canavan for Darren Canavan (40), T Canavan for E Kelly (45), S McRory for R McRory (53), T Colhoun for S Tierney (57)
Yellow cards: A McCrory (30), Ciarán Quinn (48)

Referee: E McHugh (Aghyaran)

Attendance: 6,095

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