Oran Mallon: Dungannon Clarke's #refuse to lose
Three Championship games, three late equalisers, three stunning extra-time triumphs.
That’s the remarkable story of Dungannon’s dramatic journey to a first Tyrone Senior Football Club Championship final in 34 years.
With a potent mix of defiance and courage, they have rocked Loughmacrory, Ardboe and Errigal Ciaran, and now they must find a way to take down the champions.
Ciaran Barker’s converted ’45 gave them a last gasp victory over Errigal in Saturday’s semi-final to set up a meeting with holders Trillick, a repeat of the Clarkes’ last appearance in the decider back in 1986.
“I have never been involved in a game like that before, it was unbelievable,” said midfielder Oran Mallon.
“We refuse to lose, that’s the hashtag from the county board and we follow it, we just refuse to give up.
“We were dead and buried in the first two games but we came back.
“Against Loughmacrory, we were gone, and twice against Ardboe we looked as if we were dead and buried.
“But we just kept chipping away and we got there.”
Ciaran McGinley smashed home a goal in extra-time to put Errigal Ciaran in a strong position, but Dungannon’s powers of survival saw them reel off the last four scores to claim a county final place.
“Whenever they scored that goal just before half-time in extra-time, it would have been easy to just fold,” said Mallon.
“But we knew we had it in us to come back.
“The hunger this team has is incredible, and I think we’ll be hard to stop in the final.”
It looked like it wasn’t going to be Dungannon’s day when they conceded two goals, and had Patrick Quinn’s extra-time finish to the net disallowed for a square ball infringement.
But with Paul Donaghy in sublime form, racking up 31 points in three games, they have been able to amass big scoring tallies.
“It was tough, and when we got one disallowed ourselves, you could have been thinking this wasn’t going to be our day,” Mallon recalled.
“We were missing shots that the likes of Paul (Donaghy), Kiefer (Morgan) and Paddy (Quinn) would normally be hitting.”
It was corner back Barker whose cool head and mighty right boot applied the winning touch with a sweetly struck ’45, the very last kick of a pulsating tie as it ended 0-19 to 2-12.
“It was an unbelievable kick. The nerve he had to hit that kick was incredible, the amount of pressure that was on him was incredible, because it would have gone to penalties.
“And nobody would have liked it to go to penalties.”
And now the hand of opportunity invites the men from O’Neill Park to reach out for a first Senior Championship title since 1956.
“We’re looking forward to Trillick now, we’re totally focused on the county final.
“They’re the champions for a reason and they’ll he hard to stop. But we’ll focus on them and I just can’t wait to get at them.”