GAA Football

Conall Jones revels in Derrygonnelly penalty joy against Trillick

Conall Jones stepped up twice in the penalty shoot-out that decided Sunday's dramatic Ulster Club SFC quarter-final clash between Derrygonnelly and Trillick.
Picture by Cliff Donaldson
Neil Loughran

HAVING confidently dispatched a game-saving free with the last kick of a dramatic game, the adrenaline coursing through Conall Jones’s veins ensured he was the first to put his hand up when penalties came around.

Jones stood up to the plate when it mattered most as Derrygonnelly battled back to snatch a draw with Trillick in normal time before that last-gasp extra-time free sent the Ulster Club SFC into previously unchartered waters.

He was the first man in purple and gold to stride forward and lash the ball beyond Joe Maguire in the Trillick goal, and he stepped up again once they reached sudden death. Jones scored and Lee Brennan missed, leading to pandemonium among the Harps faithful.

And the towering forward insists he revelled in the pressure situation that sent the Harps into an Ulster semi-final with Kilcoo.

“Maybe there’s something wrong with me but I love it,” said Jones.

“I love the pressure. Even if I missed one I wouldn’t drop my head, I’d go again. It’s days like that there that you practice for; you want to do it.

“Why would you train all year, train through the winter, and not want to step up? I want to step up and I’d no bother going and hitting the second one. The confidence was there.”

The Derrygonnelly and Trillick players know each other well, with many having gone to school together at St Michael’s College, while the clubs play a challenge game every July.

Jones acknowledged it would a bitter pill for the Reds to swallow but, after suffering previous Ulster Club disappointments, he said Derrygonnelly had earned the right to enjoy this success.

“It’s tough for the Trillick lads and tough for the penalty taker that didn’t put it away. But to be honest with you, we’ll take it now - we’re delighted

“We came into this game as serious underdogs and I felt our heart and desire was there the whole way through the game, the last lock of minutes of normal time we were three points down – we didn’t give in, we dragged it back. And then in extra-time, just to put the pressure on and drag it back again…

“Look, Trillick are a serious outfit. They lost Mattie Donnelly at half-time, he’s obviously a huge player for them and to lose him was a huge blow, and we probably got into the game more after he went off.

“It was an unbelievable result against a neighbouring team, and these things can happen.”

And where the Fermanagh champions were well acquainted with their Tyrone rivals, they have never come up against Kilcoo.

Despite their dominance in Down, the Magpies haven’t quite managed to get across the line in Ulster. However, after seeing off Magherafelt, Mickey Moran’s men have been installed as favourites to finally get their hands on the Seamus McFerran Cup – with Derrygonnelly regarded as rank outsiders by the bookies.

“You can see what it means to this club, it’s unbelievable,” said Jones.

“The club’s never experienced anything like this before. We got to a semi-final [against Cavan Gaels] a couple of years ago and we felt like we left it behind us, especially in the replay.

“But we’re in bonus territory now, and we know it’s going to be a very tough task against Kilcoo. They have some classy forwards, Ryan and Jerome Johnston, Shealan Johnston, and they’re sort of built on their defence with all the Branagans there, so they’ll be thinking this is their year.”

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