Dromore score late goals to see off Omagh in extra time after thriller
LCC Group Tyrone SFC first round: Dromore 3-15 Omagh 2-13 (aet)
DROMORE boss Colm McCullagh said he "wanted a result, not a performance" - but he got both as they won a thriller after extra time against Omagh.
The St Dympna's pulled clear in the final seven minutes of this enthralling encounter, netting goals through substitute Andrew McGrath and Niall Sludden, the latter ensuring this game couldn't go to a penalty shoot-out.
Both those late majors were set up superbly by young Ronan McNabb Jr, but there was no theft about 'Magpie' conjuring up victory, with Dromore doing enough overall to deserve progress to the quarter-finals.
Indeed the men in blue probably should have won in normal time but they registered seven wides to just two from their opponents, who forced a further 20 minutes when midfielder Micheal Gallagher split the posts in the fifth minute of added time.
Still, defeat was tough on a dogged, determined Omagh side who were hit hard by injuries during this match, especially in defence, losing two of their backs and corner-forward Daniel McCrossan before the end of normal time.
Ronan O'Neill carried the scoring burden for the St Enda's, notching 1-7, with his goal coming from the penalty spot to put them back in front in the first period of extra time.
Yet the champions of 2014 and 2017 could not sustain that three-yearly pattern of success and bowed out after Dromore's strength in depth proved too much for them.
Star performer Peter Teague, who repeatedly drove forward from full-back, scoring two points from play and converting two frees, said that they had won it for their experienced captain Eoin McCusker, who had to sit out extra time after being sent off in the dying moments of normal time for a second yellow card.
"At full-time, Eoin got emotional there, saying to do it for him, so we did, got him into another championship game, that's the important thing."
This was a much-needed win for the whole club. Champions three times in a five-year spell between 2007 and 2011, Dromore hadn't won a senior knockout game over the past three seasons, culminating in a 17-point humiliation by local rivals Trillick last year.
The Reds went on to win the trophy, but Teague admitted that hammering was still on their minds yesterday: "We had a very big point to prove – a 17-point defeat isn't nice, especially by your neighbours, so that was a big game for us, we needed that, it was special."
As town came to country in the windmill zone of mid-Tyrone these two teams produced an absorbing contest, more entertaining and attacking than the normal time scoreline of 1-8 might suggest.
Teague set the tone by pushing up to score the first point in the opening minute and Omagh responded brilliantly, reeling off 1-2 between the fourth and eight minutes, left wing-back Damian McGuigan rifling the goal right-footed to the net.
Yet Dromore dominated after that, holding Omagh scoreless for the rest of the half. More importantly they were boosted by a fabulous 13th minute goal from skipper McCusker, guiding in a lovely left-footed first time finish after Sludden and centre-back Ryan McCusker combined to free him one-on-one against advancing goalkeeper Niall McGinn.
Eoin McCusker added a point and a free and McCrossan was denied a goal by McGinn, but Emmett McNabb converted the consequent '45' for a 1-4 to 1-2 half-time lead.
Omagh started the second half strongly too, with county man Conor Meyler foraying forward regularly from centre-back and four different men scoring to re-take the lead, going two ahead - but again Dromore came back at them.
That man Teague appeared to have won with his second successful free in added time but Omagh midfielder Gallagher followed a blocked shot from sub Conan Grugan to level matters for the fifth time.
Restored to their full complement for extra time by the return of Emmett McNabb, who had been taken off just into injury time, Dromore fell behind again to a Michael Flanagan point.
Although they got four of the next six scores, one of Omagh's two was a goal, Ronan O'Neill calmly slotting in low after the St Enda's Cathal McCarron was fouled by two Dromore defenders.
That contributed to Omagh's 2-10 to 1-12 lead as the first period of extra time ended, and the prospect of more spot-kicks to decide matters loomed large – until Dromore found the net twice more from open play.
First, though, there were fantastic scores from each side, from Teague then Ronan O'Neill, whose booming effort put the sides level for the ninth time, at 2-11 to 1-14.
Teague smiled about his scoring return afterwards, saying: "I don't know what was going on there, to be honest. On another day they could have sailed wide. I'm just glad they went over.
"It opened up a bit when legs got tired, defences left room in behind, but we're just happy to get the win – we needed that in our club."
He played his part in his side's second goal, finding 'Magpie' McNabb to set up McGrath for a drilled goal, but even then Omagh battled back to leave the minimum margin between the sides, at 2-14 to 2-13, through two Ronan O'Neill frees, the second after Dromore corner-back Colm O'Neill had been sin-binned for dragging down Grugan.
However, as Omagh pushed forward in search of an equaliser Dromore hit them with a knockout counter-punch in added time.
Ronan McNabb Jr embarked on a mazy, lung-bursting run before hand-passing the ball unselfishly across for Sludden to palm to an empty net.
Manager McCullagh admitted "it's a big relief to get through that there – it's typical Tyrone championship football, there's nothing in it between any of the teams."
When it was put to him that he must have been seeking 'a performance' after last year's drubbing by Trillick, he responded:
"No, I wanted a result today, I didn't care about the performance, I just wanted the result. I said to the boys, championship football for me is about getting results and sometime you have to win ugly or dirty, it was just about getting over the line, getting into the next round.
"For this team not having won in the last three first rounds, this is an achievement."
This was far from ugly, another fine advertisement for Tyrone football, in front of the watching senior and U20 management teams – and there's more to come at the end of the month.
Dromore St Dympna's: D McGale; C O'Hara, P Teague (0-4, 0-2 frees), C O'Neill; N McCarron (0-1), R McCusker (0-1), R McNabb; M McCaffrey, N Sludden (1-0); S O'Neill, S McNabb (0-1), C Goodwin; D McNulty, E McCusker (capt.) (1-3, 0-2 frees), E McNabb (0-2, 0-1 '45').
Substitutes: R McNabb Jr (0-1) for McNulty (38); S McDonnell (0-2 frees) for S O'Neill (46); A McGrath for E McNabb (61).
Extra time, E McNabb back on for E McCusker.
Red card: E McCusker (66- added time - second yellow).
Black card: C O'Neill (79).
Omagh St Enda's: N McGinn; A Clarke, H Gallagher, C McLaughlin; B Tierney, C Meyler, D McGuigan (1-1); M Gallagher (0-1), T Gallagher; D O'Neill, R O'Neill (1-7, 0-5 frees, 1-0 penalty), T Clarke; D McCrossan (0-1), B Fox, C O'Donnell (0-2).
Substitutes: T Donaghy for H Gallagher (12, inj.); M Flanagan (0-1) for Clarke (36); E Rodgers for McLaughlin (42, inj.); C Grugan for Fox (53); C McCarron for McCrossan (59, inj).
Black card: McGuigan (77).
Referee Shane Meehan (Glenelly)