Goals help Dungannon overcome wretched start to dump out Trillick
LCC Tyrone SFC first round: Dungannon 3-8 Trillick 0-11
HIS tooth-baring smile the width of the Healy Park tunnel, Chris Rafferty goes straight to Collie Holmes’ bag of phrases.
“Collie says there are only two emotions in management: relief and devastation. I’m relieved tonight,” the Dungannon manager says, exhaling.
Relieved that twelve months after losing a first-round epic against the team that eventually went home with the crown Dungannon had brought to Omagh from 2020, the Clarkes were on the right side of a titanic tussle this time.
For 20 minutes, it didn’t appear that they’d even be close. They were so far off that you wondered if we’d get any sort of a game.
Trillick were good in that spell, but Dungannon were woeful.
Kicking ball away, running into tackles, spilling possession, taking mad shots. The only thing keeping them alive was that they still defended well enough and created enough turnovers just to stay alive.
“We just didn’t click. Nerves kick in in a different way, we didn’t perform. Our match-ups weren’t working and I think the adrenaline caught us,” said Rafferty.
“As well as Trillick did play, they weren’t finishing as well as they should have and they didn’t put us to the sword.
“We got two scores against the run of play. Two scores is good but two goals is massive. We were confident at half-time we wouldn’t play as poorly as we had in the first half.”
One moment shook them into life. They waited 21 minutes for a score and two came along 21 seconds apart. The second of them a goal, the ball snatched by Dalaigh Jones from the short kickout.
It looked like he mightn’t get the ball up in time to finish it but just had enough time to squeeze it past Ryan Kelly at the near post.
Out of absolutely nowhere Dungannon were level and from there they were the better side, with their goal threat proving the difference.
Trillick paid a price for not having put more scores on them early on.
The fact that Dungannon played a religiously man-to-man game, leaving acres of space, was something the Reds looked to punish with some good kicking off Mattie Donnelly, but didn’t make as much of as they might have.
It was proving so joyous they just lumped one into the sky from 50 yards at Donnelly, and his challenge on the ‘keeper left the ball nicely for Lee Brennan, but his effort was saved by makeshift stopped Denis Walsh who’d dropped back on the line.
That was at 0-4 to 0-0. The goal might have been terminal for the Clarkes.
Instead, in the next attack Patrick Quinn got their first score and when Jones followed up with the goal, the 2020 champions and the game came to life.
Quinn, Patrick Molloy and Paul Donaghy had seen plenty of ball themselves but between poor shot selection and the tight marking for a long time of Daire Gallagher on Donaghy in particular, they got little dividend for a long time.
Then they put one brilliant diagonal ball on top of Quinn in the area he really wanted it. He fetched Ben Gormley’s ball up above Ruairi Kelly from goalside and headed through to blaze into the roof of the net in the final minute of the first half.
Dungannon, from nowhere, went in 2-2 to 0-4 ahead.
Trillick’s response was to throw in Richie Donnelly and U20 All-Ireland winner Seanie O’Donnell. Both unable to start, both had a massive influence – particularly O’Donnell - as Nigel Seaney’s men hauled themselves quickly level.
They kicked five of the half’s first six scores, with Denis Walsh again blocking a Brennan effort, only this time from Rory (who was excellent), palming it up over the bar. That made it 2-3 to 0-9 after 42 minutes and it seemed destined to go the distance.
Dungannon came down with answers of their own. Paul Donaghy found his gear to point and then burned Gallagher for the first time along the endline, squaring for Darragh Skeffington. He’d won the kickout to start the move and was back on hand to finish it, burying low to the net.
When it was asked of them, Chris Rafferty had men to stand up. The two Joneses weren’t easy kept up with when they got going. Kevin Barker came into it, Daire Martin’s kickouts were outstanding.
At 3-5 to 0-9 the Clarkes gathered a measure of control that they weren’t to lose again. Trillick did get back within three but never threatened the goal it became apparent they’d need as the men in green – even without the talismanic Padraig McNulty, who hasn’t played since suffering a bad injury on Tyrone duty but was togged out – picked them off on the break.
Patrick Quinn’s gander was up as he scored a deadly point, taking on Ruairi Kelly and finishing from distance off the left. Ciaran Barker kicked two monster frees as Dungannon moved four, five, six clear.
Trillick, widely regarded as the best side in Tyrone since 2015, were left with only aerial bombs in their artillery. Richie Donnelly moved inside with Mattie but they were dealt with comfortably.
The gap stayed six and Trillick’s year came to an end they couldn’t have foreseen after 20 minutes.
Dungannon got away with their bad spell. Walsh’s clearance off the line from Lee Brennan was the seminal moment. That goes in and it’s maybe gone for the Clarkes.
Errigal Ciaran have the Moy to get over yet but it’s expected to be them next. Cut-throat wouldn’t be in it.
Dungannon: D Martin; D Skeffington (1-0), D Walsh, B Gormley; C Devlin, C Barker (0-2 frees), M McKearney; C McKee, K Barker (0-1); D Jones (1-1), L Mallon, R Jones; P Molloy, P Quinn (1-2), P Donaghy (0-2)
Subs: O Mallon for McKee (42), O Cowan for Molloy (58), P McKearney for Skeffington (62)
Trillick: Ryan Kelly; D Gallagher, Ruairi Kelly, M Gallagher; S O’Donnell, D McQuaid, D Donnelly; R Brennan (0-1), L Gray (0-1); S Garrity (0-1), R Gray, C Daly; L Brennan (0-5, 0-4 frees), M Donnelly, J Garrity (0-1)
Subs: R Donnelly (0-1) for R Gray (HT), S O’Donnell (0-1) for Daly (HT), N Donnelly for J Garrity (51), P McCaughey for Ruairi Kelly (55)
Referee: C Forbes (Ardboe)