GAA Football

Champions Dromore down Killyclogher in dramatic Tyrone SFC opener

Tyrone champions Dromore edged out Killyclogher in an absorbing contest at Healy Park on Friday night Picture: Jim Dunne
Francis Mooney

LCC Group Tyrone SFC Round One

Dromore 3-9 Killyclogher 1-10

Champions Dromore avoided the curse of the champions as they got through the first defence of their Tyrone SFC title with a battling win over Killyclogher at O’Neills Healy Park.

It’s 17 years since the title was last retained, but the St Dympna’s showed the sort of spirit and hunger that could bring that sequence to an end.

Despite the heroic efforts of Mark Bradley, Killyclogher could find no way through a heroic defense, for a goal they so badly needed in the closing stages.

It was a compelling encounter that saw the O’Neill Cup holders lead all the way after getting off to a storming start with the first of three goals.

The champions suffered a heavy pre-match blow, losing All-Star Niall Sludden due to a hamstring strain picked up in the warm-up, but they made light of the setback to race into a five-point lead inside five minutes.

Ronan McNabb Jnr sliced through a static defence to rifle home a fourth minute goal, and they could have had a second when Emmet McNabb sent Peter Teague through, but he blazed his shot over the bar.

Killyclogher, forced to field without in-form midfielder Oisin McCann, struggled to get going, eventually got up and running with a Mark Bradley mark, and it was the former Tyrone attacker’s accuracy that kept them in touch as they clawed their way back.

After that furious start, Dromore managed just one further score in the opening half as the Balinamullan men tightened up at the back and forced a series of turnovers.

Experienced full-back Danny Gorman got a vital hand in as Tomas McCarron attempted to release McNabb, and the ball was recycled to Emmet McNabb for his second score.

But Killyclogher finished the half strongest, with three point on the spin, including Bradley’s third, with defender Michael Rafferty and Gavin Potter also on target to leave just a point in it at the break, 1-3 to 0-5.

Bradley brought the sides level with another delightful score, but Dromore always posed a goal threat going forward, with Ryan McCusker smashing a fierce shot against the crossbar.

And they did get their second three-pointer in the 36th minute, Tomas McCarron working hard to dispossess a defender and cross for Peter Teague to punch home.

Ronan McNabb Snr and McCarron worked hard to halt the Killyclogher men as they built from deep, and it was McCarron who got back to save off the line as Darragh Hayes broke through to get his shot away.

McNabb Jnr and Emmet McNabb scored on the break, and at the end of the third quarter, the defending champions led by 2-6 to 0-7.

Bradley pushed his side back into contention with two more scores, one of them a magnificent effort from close to the sideline, and with five minutes to play, Killyclogher got themselves right back into it with a goal from substitute Mark Hayes, who finished a cross from younger brother Darragh from close range.

Bradley narrowed the gap to a single point, but Dromore’s discipline and composure on the ball were outstanding as they held possession and built patiently for Declan McNulty to nail a free, before substitute Andrew McGrath sealed it with a third goal deep into stoppage time.

Dromore: M McGale; P McHugh, N McCarron, C O’Hara; C Colton, R McCusker, O Rafferty; P Teague (1-1), R McNabb Snr; A O’Donnell, E McNabb (0-4, 1f, 1m), T McCarron; Ronan McNabb Jnr (1-2), T Sludden, C Goodwin.

 

Subs: S McNabb for Sludden, C MacRory for O’Donnell, D McNulty (0-2, 1f)for O’Hara, E McShane for McCusker, A McGrath (1-0) for McNabb Jnr

 

Killyclogher: S O’Neill; M Devlin, D Gorman, M Rafferty (0-2); J Rafferty, G Sludden, N O’Neill; C McCann, N Donnelly; T McCann, M Flanagan, A Kelly; G Potter (0-1), M Bradley (0-7, 2f, 1m), E McFadden.

 

Subs: M Hayes (1-0) for Kelly, D Hayes for Flanagan

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