Fireworks at Healy Park as Dromore bounce back to see off Trillick in semi-final battle

Dromore's Ronan McNabb on the attack with Trillick's Seanie O Donnell in hot pursuit in Saturday night's semi-final at Healy Park. Picture: Seamus Loughran
Dromore's Ronan McNabb on the attack with Trillick's Seanie O Donnell in hot pursuit in Saturday night's semi-final at Healy Park. Picture: Seamus Loughran

LCC Group Tyrone Senior Football Championship semi-final: Dromore 0-17 Trillick 2-9

EXPLODING rockets lit up the sky in the near distance but the real fireworks were in Healy Park on Saturday night where Dromore bested Trillick in an extraordinary see-saw encounter and took their place in the championship final.

A breathless battle that fused modern methods with the traditional championship qualities of commitment and courage swung Dromore’s way, then Trillick’s and then back to the neversaydie men in blue at the death. After leading by seven points and then trailing by five, Dromore won by two and they return to Tyrone’s showpiece for the first time since 2012.

Smiling supporters celebrated the win with the St Dympna’s players after the final whistle, and rightly so, but manager Colm McCullagh sounded a note of caution amid the joyful scenes.

Nothing has been won yet.

“We find ourselves in the final now but all this will be long gone if we don’t get the result in two weeks’ time,” he said.

“We’ll need all the experience we can get. We have a lot of young lads in there and we have experience as well. A lot of young lads and they were willing to put their hand up there and show their mettle tonight but the final is going to be a massive challenge for us and we’ll need everybody.”

Trillick didn’t score until the 16th minute and by that stage they were seven points behind. Dromore completely dominated the opening period and Niall Sludden scored two and created two of their scores.

Trillick were second best. They couldn’t get their hands on the ball in midfield and were cut to shreds by Dromore runners until a free from Lee Brennan, who stole the show in the second quarter, finally got them up and running.

Brennan’s score was a crumb of comfort for them to take to the water break huddle and, after a few words from Mattie Donnelly and manager Nigel Seaney, they returned to the fray with more fire in their bellies.

In an extraordinary turnaround, they were ahead by half-time.

Brennan’s pace created their first goal. He won the ball, raced down the left wing and played in Simon Garrity who stabbed the ball past Dromore goalkeeper Mark McGale.

And then it was Trillick’s turn to press the kick-out and they did so brilliantly, locking down the entire grid as McGale looked for a restart option. There wasn’t one so he soloed out himself – all the way to the Trillick 45 where he off-loaded the ball to Paul McHugh and he registered Dromore’s ninth score of a thrilling first half.

But McHale quickly switched from hero to villain when, after James McGarrity had replied for Trillick, he scuffed a kick-out and Brennan whipped the ball past him and into the net. Suddenly the St McCartan’s side were ahead and another point from skilful Garrity left them 2-5 to 0-9 up at the break.

The consensus in the stands at half-time was that Dromore had blown their chance and the early stages of the second half added weight to that argument. Lee Brennan added two more in between Michael Gallagher’s point and Trillick led by five.

With Daire Gallagher doing a good marking job on Niall Sludden, it looked as though they might have done enough (perhaps they thought they had?) but Dromore weren’t buying it and they set their minds to reeling in their opponents.

Teague ended their barren run with a free and by the water break there was only three in it (2-9 to 0-12).

Emmett McNabb, another eye-catching forward talent, and Teague reduced the deficit to one and with former county star Ronan McNabb reeling back the years around midfield and Nathan McCarron shadowing Mattie Donnelly’s every move, Emmett McNabb gave marker Stephen O’Donnell the slip and levelled.

At the other end, Trillick’s young forward unit lost their way and roars broke out on the terraces and in the stand as Teague’s free floated over the bar to regain the lead for Dromore.

Sub Odhran Rafferty put two between them but there still time for a last Trillick role of the dice. James Garrity’s pace punched a hole in the Dromore defence and Simon Garrity found space for a shot. But he screwed it wide and Sean Hurson’s final whistle confirmed an unforgettable win for Dromore. If they show the same spirit in the final they’ll be hard to stop.

Dromore: M McGale; C O’Hara, P McHugh (0-1), C O’Neill; T McCarron (0-1), R McCusker, N McCarron; P Teague (0-4, 0-3 frees), N Sludden (0-2); S McNabb (0-2), R McNabb jnr, R McNabb snr (0-1), E McNabb (0-5), T Sludden, C McCoy

Subs: O Rafferty (0-1) for McCoy (25), C Goodwin for R McCusker (28), E McCusker for T Sludden (44), A McGrath for R McNabb jnr (46), R McNabb jnr for S McNabb (59)

Yellow card: N Sludden (52)

Trillick: R Kelly; S O’Donnell, R Kelly, M Gallagher (0-1); D Gallagher (0-1), R Brennan, S O’Donnell; R Donnelly, L Gray; M Donnelly, N Donnelly, S Garrity (1-0); C Daly, L Brennan (1-4, 0-3 frees), J Garrity (0-3)

Subs: R Gray for N Donnelly (42), N Gormley for C Daly (58)

Yellow card: M Gallagher (36)

Referee: Sean Hurson (Galbally)