GAA Football

Coalisland show there's no substitute for knowing how to win

Coalisland's Peter Herron pops the ball off as Ruairi Loughran and Ruairi Slane come in to challenge for Carrickmore. Picture by Seamus Loughran.
From Cahair O'Kane in Galbally

LCC Tyrone SFC quarter-final: Coalisland 0-10 Carrickmore 0-9

OF all the qualities that are valuable in championship football, there’s none greater than simply knowing how to win games.

Coalisland looked set for a quiet winter when they were seven down to Edendork two weeks ago. Yet here they are, still standing and looking into another semi-final.

Rumour has it that at 2.30pm yesterday, their whole parish engaged in a rain dance.

The turf in Galbally was pristine but its new layer of grease turned this from summerball into winter fare.

That’s far from being dismissive of the quality the winners brought to the game. Cormac O’Hagan was the best player on the pitch and they played a smart brand of football off him. Peter Herron had moments, Plunkett Kane had a typically big ten minutes when their chip-stack was depleted by Paddy McNeice’s black card.

But if they could have chosen conditions into which they’d bring a fancied, talented, pacy but green Carrickmore side, a wet, horrible day would have been their choice 100 times out of 100.

For 25 minutes, the plan worked perfectly. Playing against the gale, Coalisland kept the ball out of contact, out of Carrickmore hands and largely away from their own goal. At 0-2 apiece, they would have been delighted.

But in a few sparkling minutes, Carmen fed off Jonathan Munroe’s great spell at midfield and Daniel Fullerton sparking into life as he moved higher up their attack.

What had been pedestrian fare at Coalisland’s discretion suddenly looked like a game getting away from them. Fullerton kicked three points in four minutes, pushing off Eoghan Hampsey for one, his brother Padraig for another and then penalising the uncharacteristic standoffishness in the blue ranks for his third.

At 0-6 to 0-2, it felt like the wind they were to face mightn’t be too sore on Carrickmore. And when McNeice put a late hit on Ciaran Daly and earned a black card five minutes after the restart, the game was sitting there for Ryan Daly’s side.

Coalisland might have been pointing to the lack of any colour of card for Ruairi Loughran for a similar first-half block on Peter Herron, but crying about the hole in the boat never stopped anyone sinking.

Instead, four points down and a man shy, Na Fianna’s big men stood up. They’ll build a statue of Plunkett Kane some day. It wasn’t his best first half but in those ten minutes, he was colossal.

He scored the first point, won the mark at midfield that led to the second and then popped the perfectly-timed pass that created the third. When Cormac O’Hagan fisted that over it was 0-7 to 0-5. By the water break, Coalisland were ahead.

Brian Toner made a difference coming off the bench, and his equaliser came after he won a kickout on the left wing and then popped up on the right to score.

It seemed as though the water break sealed the leak. Carrickmore settled and kicked the next two points to go back in front, and you thought they were ready for a big championship breakthrough.

But when the game was there to be won, Coalisland had the cool heads.

Cormac O’Hagan landed a monstrous free from almost 55 metres.

Tiernan Quinn, having lost three months of the year to an ankle injury and then been wrapped in cotton wool since suffering a quad strain against Edendork, sprung from the bench to step inside and fire the winner off the outside of his left boot.

Carrickmore had three chances to level it but on the wet turf, Caolan Daly couldn’t find his free-taking feet. He dropped two short and sub Tiarnan Murray did the same.

They have many big days ahead but it was Coalisland who revelled in the way the game went, the conditions, the underdog tag, the lot.

One supporter did a proper Fred Flintstone jump in celebration as he headed for the gate home.

It will take a whole lot to drag Coalisland away from the party.

F Corey; J Fee, E Hampsey; P Hampsey; N Devlin, M McKernan, N Kerr, S McNally; J Carberry, P Kane (0-1); P Herron, B Leonard, S Corr; P McNeice, C O’Hagan (0-7, 0-4 frees)
Subs: B Toner (0-1) for Corr (34), T Quinn (0-1) for Kerr (39), R Campbell for McNeice (52)
Black card: P McNeice (35-45)
Yellow cards: N Kerr (18), S Corr (33), T Quinn (59)

Carrickmore: J McCallan; S Loughran (0-1), O McKee; R Slane; R Loughran (0-1), C Munroe, N Allison; J Munroe (0-1), C McBride; Ciaran Daly (0-1 free), D Fullerton (0-3), J Donaghy; Caolan Daly (0-1 free), B Daly, R Donnelly (0-1 free)
Subs: M Donaghy for B Daly (23), T Murray for Ciaran Daly (50), M Penrose for J Donaghy (52), B McLaughlin for Slane (55)
Yellow cards: J Munroe (18), C Munroe (38)

Referee: K Eannetta (Omagh)

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