Three extra-time thrillers and Dungannon Clarkes still standing tall... now Trillick await in the Tyrone final
Tyrone SFC semi-final: Dungannon 0-19 Errigal Ciaran 2-12 (aet)
Three extra-time thrillers and the Clarkes are still standing tall.
Yet again they went the added distance to reach their first Tyrone SFC final since 1986, but only after an absorbing battle with Errigal Ciaran had produced many moments of high drama.
Corner back Ciaran Barker stepped up to slot a '45 between the posts with the very last kick of the game to signal a significant breakthrough for a famous club.
In their previous two rounds, Dungannon needed a late equaliser to avoid defeat in normal time, and once again they rescued a gripping tie with a 59th minute leveller from substitute Patrick Quinn.
Paul Donaghy's eight points brought his haul to 31 over three ties, each one delivering a damaging blow to Errigal's bid to set up a repeat of last year's decider.
Now it's Dungannon who will make a proud appearance on county final day against champions Trillick, the club that came out on top when they were last there 34 years ago.
“At no stage did they panic and they deserve great credit for that,” said Dungannon manager Chris Rafferty
“They're young, they're fit, they work hard on their conditioning, they're conscientious, and I thought they were superb in their temperament as much as their performance.”
And with two extra-time wins already secured int the current series, Rafferty was confident his side could handle yet another extension.
“When you do it once, you're prepared for it, and you have that that experience and you know that if you go to the well, you can come back from it.
“It's about not panicking under pressure, about being composed. We talked to them about that and they absorb everything.
There's an awful lot of talented footballers there, intelligent young men, and they're very capable of taking on instruction and adhering to it.”
As Barker set the ball down to slot the winner from the 45 metre line, Rafferty was looking to his bench for potential candidates for a penalty shoot-out, but he insisted afterwards that he never doubted his trusted place-kicker could deliver the knock-out blow.
“I had every confidence in Ciaran. It's just an adrenalin rush.
“He has fantastic temperament, he has got a background in basketball, he's spacially aware, he distributes the ball very well and he doesn't panic.”
The sides were level on eleven occasions throughout this absorbing, nerve-shredding contest.
They were tied at six points each at the turnaround, with Ryan Jones, Padraig McNulty, Donaghy and Patrick Molloy all on target for the Clarkes, while Odhran Robinson, Peter Harte, Tommy Canavan and Mark Kavanagh responding.
It was teenager Robinson who had the best chance of the half, when sent in by Harte, but his shot was saved by Daire Martin.
Robinson did hit the net three minutes after the restart, finishing low to the net from Tommy Canavan's clever assist.
The Clarkes needed a response, and they got it through Patrick Molloy and Donaghy, but it was looking increasingly like the makings of a repeat of last year's final as Errigal pulled three clear through Canavan late on.
However, the incredible resilience of a relatively inexperienced Clarkes side kicked in again, with substitutes Kiefer Morgan and Patrick Quinn bringing them level on 0-12 to 1-9.
Errigal Ciaran found another moment of inspiration when substitute Ciaran McGinley fired home their second goal just before the turnaround in extra-time, and again they led by three.
But Dungannon dug deep, with two more from Donaghy, a leveller from Sub Kevin Barker, and an ice-cool finish from the '45 by Ciaran Barker to win it in sensational fashion.
Dungannon: D Martin; C Barker (0-2, 2 ‘45s), B McNulty, C Devlin; D O'Hagan, D Walsh, M McKearney; O Mallon, P McNulty (0-1); D Jones (0-1), M Walsh, R Jones (0-1); L Mallon, P Molloy (0-2), P Donaghy (0-8, 5f).
Subs: P Quinn (0-2) for B McNulty, K Morgan (0-1) for Molloy, K Barker (0-1) for O'Hagan, C Corrigan for R Jones, O Cowan for L Mallon, L Mallon for D Jones.
Errigal Ciaran: D McAnenly; Ciaran Quinn, A McCrory, Cormac Quinn; A McAnenly, N Kelly, S Tierney; B McDonnell (0-1), E Kelly; C Corrigan, T Canavan (0-3), P Og McCartan (0-1); M Kavanagh (0-1), O Robinson (1-2, 0-1mark), P Harte (0-2, 1f).
Subs: R McRory (0-1) for Tierney, D Canavan for T Canavan, C McGinley (1-1) for Robinson, R Lynch for Kavanagh, D McDermott for Cormac Quinn.
Referee: Sean Hurson (Galbally)
Tyrone SFC semi-final: Trillick 2-13 Coalisland 1-12
If the measure of a great champion is to endure for longer than a year, then Trillick are right on track.
No club has managed to retain the Tyrone SFC title since 2005, but the O'Neill Cup holders are back in another final.
They resisted all that Coalisland could throw at them at Healy Park, and left just enough in the tank to surge through the finish line with a stylish ruthlessness.
Simon Garrity and Liam Gray grabbed the all-important goals, but it was Mattie Donnelly who set the pace and controlled the tempo in a masterful display.
Inspirational from start to finish, the Tyrone captain and former All-Star was by far the game's most influential figure.
An ability to close out tight games has been Trillick's hallmark this season, and manager Nigel Seaney commended his players' character.
“They're demonstrating a really good level of consistent play which leaves us in the melting pot in a lot of these games,” he said.
“A lot of them are very tight, and when you reflect over the three games, Killyclogher had chances to put us away and we came out on the right side of that.”
But he conceded the final stages could have been more uncomfortable had the Fianna not wasted a couple of important scoring opportunities late on.
“Coalisland had two very good chances near the end which just narrowly went wide and would have put a different slant on it.
“So there's a wee bit of fortune in it, but we hang in, hang in, right to the end. That's one thing we always do.”
Plunkett Kane smashed home a spectacular goal after just two minutes, rippling the roof of the net from Cormac O'Hagan's return pass to stun the champions.
But Trillick had the ball in the net on ten minutes, Mattie Donnelly threading a pass to Simon Garrity, who sent midfielder Liam Gray in to finish with conviction.
It was the Donnelly effect that brought the St Macartan's back after two Tiarnan Quinn scores had nudged the Fianna ahead, and three points on the spin helped them swing the momentum in their favour.
The former All-Star had a shot deflected out for a '45, which Lee Brennan converted, and a superb effort from wing back Michael Gallagher put them two in front.
O'Hagan's long range free trimmed it back to 1-6 to 1-5 at the break, but Trillick's purple patch at the start of the second half was to prove decisive.
Straight from the throw-in, Richie Donnelly broke two tackles and moved the ball across the goalmouth for Simon Garrity to palm home.
In barely more than two minutes they had 1-2 on the board, with Mattie Donnelly taking a mark and James Garrity landing the best of his three eye-catching scores.
Now six points clear, the holders appeared to have everything under control, but an experienced Coalisland side had the craft to find a way back.
Veteran Kane fetched majestically around the middle to keep them on the front foot, Quinn's eye for the posts chipped away at he lead, and they succeeded in picking holes in a massed Trillick defence.
Another surge in the closing stages brought further Fianna scores, with Sean Corr, O'Hagan, from a '45, and Quinn making it a one point game as the hour elapsed.
But as they committed men forward, Trillick were able to expose their opponents on the breakaway, hitting three stoppage time scores to secure the win, with Brennan bringing his tally to five with a couple of frees.
Trillick: R Kelly; S O'Donnell, R Kelly, G McCarron; M Gallagher (0-1), R Brennan, D McDonnell; R Donnelly (0-1), L Gray (1-0); M Donnelly (0-3, 0-1mark), N Donnelly, R Gray; J Garrity (0-3), L Brennan (0-5, 4f, 1 '45), S Garrity (1-0).
Subs: C Daly for R Gray, N Gormley for S Garrity, D Gallagher for J Garrity.
Coalisland: P Donnelly; E Hampsey, P Hampsey, C Doyle; M McKernan, S McNally, N Kerr; P Kane (1-1), J Carberry; P Herron, C O'Hagan (0-4, 4f), B Leonard (0-2, 1f); L O'Neill, P McGahan, T Quinn (0-4, 1f).
Subs: M Hagan for Doyle, O McHugh for Kerr, P McNeice for McGahan, J Fee for E Hampsey, S Corr (0-1, f) for Leonard.
Referee: K Eanetta (Omagh).