GAA Football

Dungannon Clarke's #RefuseToLose and end 64-year wait in Tyrone SFC

Dungannon Clarke's celebrate with the O'Neill Cup at Healy Park.
Picture Seamus Loughran
Kenny Archer at Healy Park

LCC Group Tyrone SFC Final: Dungannon Thomas Clarke's 1-12 Trillick St Macartan's 1-12 (aet) (Dungannon win 8-7 on penalties)

REFUSE to lose. Never was there a truer marketing slogan as Dungannon Clarke's ended a 64-year wait for the Tyrone crown without winning a match in normal time.

As in their previous three outings of this extraordinary season the green and saffrons went to extra time – and this time they took the drama to another level, to a second set of penalties, with corner-back Ciaran Barker eventually netting the winner 8-7 to dethrone Trillick.

The hero of the semi-final success, scoring a last-gasp '45' winner over Errigal Ciaran, Barker skied his first spot-kick after Trillick captain Daire Gallagher's effort had been saved to leave it at 3-3.

With the sides netting four more penalties each second time around, the Reds' skipper put his shot over – and Barker sealed his place in Dungannon Clarke's folklore.

It was cruel, obviously, on Trillick, who had dominated the first half and led again by two points with the hour almost up, before Barker and Dungannon sub Kiefer Morgan brought it to extra time.

Trillick again went two up, but dogged Dungannon turned it around to lead, only for Lee Brennan to bring his tally to 1-7 and level matters for the fourth time at 1-12 apiece with his sixth successful free.

The holders might even have retained the trophy after that but for a moment that might have been overlooked amidst all the madness that followed – but one that should never be forgotten in Dungannon.

With Tyrone captain Mattie Donnelly bearing down on the Dungannon 'D', about to set up the opportunity for what would surely have been the winning score, his marker Matthew Walsh made a decisive intervention.

As Donnelly's handpass rose into the night sky, the Dungannon number 12 stretched out his arms and his fingertips prevented the chance of a Trillick winner.

The fact that Dungannon ended up victorious had appeared even more unlikely in the first half.

In the club's first senior final for 34 years, the Clarke's were, understandably, tentative, sitting deep.

However, conceding the middle third allowed Trillick to pour forward, and they had the passing skills to pick their way through, with Brennan unable to be contained.

The stocky number 14 grabbed their goal in the 14th minute, a thing of beauty, with Brennan racing onto a perfectly timed lay-off from Niall Donnelly before firing a fierce shot to the net.

Whereas Trillick's main marksman was flying, Dungannon's was off-target, Paul Donaghy missing two admittedly long range frees.

The Clarke's support was ready to roar anything, but had to wait until more than 20 minutes had been played before they got to cheer a score, from full-forward Patrick Molloy.

With the Jones brothers, Ryan and Dalaigh, running relentlessly, and little wing-back Mark McKearney keeping possession, keeping possession, keeping possession, Dungannon did claw a hand-hold into the match, but still trailed by four at the break, 1-4 to 0-3.

However, their performance in the so-called 'Championship quarter' was immense, scoring 1-4 to just a single Brennan free.

The Clarke's goal came from super-sub Patrick Quinn, but only after he had already notched a point. Donaghy, personifying his team's transformation, launched a long ball which Trillick full-back Ruairi Kelly could only get a hand to.

Quinn got both his mitts on it – and then lashed it past goalkeeper Ryan Kelly. Barker's point put Dungannon two ahead, and when Brennan sliced a shot well wide it seemed the tide had turned decisively.

However, Trillick showed their class, and guts, reeling off four points in a row, with substitutes Ciaran Daly and veteran Niall Gormley putting them two ahead, after two scores from Brennan had brought the teams level for the first time since the scoring started, at 1-7 rach.

But this Dungannon team didn't give up – they never do.

Corner-back Ciaran Barker reduced the gap from a free, then, after displaying far more patience than their supporters could muster, the Clarke's worked an opening for Kiefer Morgan to force extra time.

Just as in their last final, in 1986, also against Trillick, Dungannon had drawn – but this one wasn't finished, far from it.

The scores kept coming, two for Trillick, then three for Dungannon, another equaliser.

And then penalties.

Dungannon blinked first, sub Connor McKee striking a post, but his goalkeeper Daire Martin immediately cancelled that out by saving from Mattie Donnelly.

Two more misses ensued – and sudden death.

With county chairman Michael Kerr striding onto the pitch, apparently set to call for a replay, Trillick went high, too high – and Barker sent Dungannon into delirium.

Extra extra extra extra special.

Dungannon Thomas Clarke's: D Martin; C Barker (0-2, 0-1 free 0-1 '45'), D Walsh, C Devlin; D O'Hagan, S Molloy, M McKearney; O Mallon,, P McNulty (capt.); D Jones (0-1), R Jones, M Walsh; L Mallon, P Molloy (0-2, 0-1 free), P Donaghy (0-3, 0-2 frees).

Substitutes: P Quinn (1-2) for P Molloy (38); K Morgan (0-2, 0-1 free) for L Mallon (42); K Barker for S Molloy (51); C Corrigan for O'Hagan (59).

B McNulty for O Mallon (70); L Mallon for R Jones (74); C McKee for D Jones (77).

Trillick St Macartan's: Ryan Kelly; S O'Donnell, Ruairi Kelly, G McCarron (0-1 mark); M Gallagher, D McDonnell, R Brennan; R Donnelly, L Gray (0-1); M Donnelly, N Donnelly, R Gray; J Garrity, L Brennan (1-7, 0-6 frees, 0-1 '45'), S Garrity.

Substitutes: D Gallagher (capt.) for O'Donnell (33, first half); C Daly (0-2) for N Donnelly (38); D Kelly for McDonnell (46); N Gormley (0-1) for S Garrity (51).

D McDonnell for M Gallagher (73); D McQuaid for J Garrity (75); G McKenna for D Kelly (78, inj.).

Blood sub: D Gallagher for J Garrity (28-30).

Referee: Shane Meehan (Glenelly)

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