GAA Football

Errigal Ciaran see off battling Carrickmore to win Tyrone Championship crown

Errigal Ciaran's Darragh Canavan shields the ball from Carrickmore's Ruairi Loughran during the Tyrone Championship final at Healy Park. Picture: Seamus Loughran
Andy Watters

LCC Group Tyrone Senior Football Championship final: Errigal Ciaran 2-11 Carrickmore 1-12

From Andy Watters at O'Neill's Healy Park

THE seconds ticked away and a terrific Tyrone final teetered on the edge of a knife as Carrickmore launched another attack under the Healy Park lights.

Only two points separated the teams when the Carmen worked the ball out to the wing and massed under the posts to contest the high ball they expected to come in.

It never did.

Errigal Ciaran skipper Tommy Canavan dived full-length to block the kick, the danger was averted and, around 10 minutes later in front of a heaving throng of delighted supporters, Canavan accepted the O'Neill Cup on behalf of his club.

Those were the fine margins in a breathless game of football.

Errigal led by seven points (1-7 to 0-4) at half-time after Padraig McGirr's first half goal but Carrickmore, inspired by Martin Penrose's strike early in the second half, threw absolutely everything at them in the second half.

It took a brilliant goal from Joe Oguz and plenty of backs-to-the-wall defending to get Errigal over the line and secure their first Tyrone title in a decade.

It's 17 years now and counting since Carrickmore last got their hands on the O'Neill Cup. Their skipper Rory Donnelly was only a youngster then but he led his club valiantly yesterday and will hope for better days in the future.

“Half-time was a dark place for us,” said the 20-year-old.

“We said we would come out and fight in the second half and I think we did that. We had a few chances at the end but we left ourselves too much to do. We said at half-time that we may as well lose by 20 than sit back and let them keep coming and their goal was a result of that because we pushed out and left ourselves open through the middle.

“But I'm massively proud of the boys today, they put everything on the line and we just came up short.

“Watching Errigal lift the cup… It didn't feel nice so we can only hope that is going to be us in the coming years.”

This final was engrossing from the start and both sides attacked at full-throttle. Darragh Canavan (playing up front alongside brother Ruairi) came close to opening the scoring after he'd been bundled over just inside the Carrickmore 45. He struck his free well but it hit the post and Cormac Quinn smashed in a shot which Cormac Munroe dived in bravely to block.

At the other end, Penrose played in Daniel Fullerton who did open the scoring with an audacious swerving effort from near the left touchline.

Ruairi Canavan made up for an early wide with a confident finish that levelled it after eight minutes and then Peter Harte took McGirr's pass on the run and edged Errigal ahead with a languid finish off his right boot.

Daniel Fullerton's free brought the sides level but Lorcan McBride (playing in midfield due to Jonny Munroe's absence) sent the Carmen in front again.

Harte and Darragh Canavan both missed decent opportunities for Errigal but Ruairi Canavan added his second – a brilliant score from the right touchline – to tie the scores at 0-3 apiece after 15 entertaining minutes and then Errigal took control.

Tommy Canavan's monster free got their noses in front again and the impressive Ben McDonnell broke through the Carrickmore defensive screen and extended the lead to two as the pre-match favourites – with Ciaran Quinn outstanding in defence and the Canavans proving hard to pin down up front - began to move through the gears.

Mark Kavanagh weighed up his options and then left fly with accuracy to make it 6-3 before Ruairi Canavan – electric and confident - turned the Carrickmore defence and played in his brother who lashed the ball over the bar.

Daniel Fullerton landed a free for Carrickmore but the younger Canavan was provider again after he picked out Joe Oguz who finished a flowing move with a confident finish.

Carrickmore were reeling and they were left with a second half mountain to climb when McGirr took Harte's pass in injury-time and he picked his spot to leave Errigal leading 1-8 to 0-4 and in total command at the break.

But the Carmen hauled themselves back into it in the second minute of the second half. Lorcan McGarrity robbed Cormac Quinn after a short kick-out and Penrose galloped clear and then drilled a low shot into the Errigal net.

Kavanagh replied with a point at the other end but the Carrickmore faithful roared again when Penrose turned and split the posts to keep his side in touch. They roared louder still when McGarrity grabbed Aiden Fullerton's pass and clipped over a mark to reduce the deficit to three points (1-9 to 1-6) after eight frenetic minutes.

Ruairi Slane's point left just two in it and with Cormac Munroe operating in a defence that was looking much more solid, Carrickmore began to sense a famous comeback win.

Against the run of play, Errigal hit back with fluent quality. McDonnell went on another driving run from midfield and passed to Darragh Canavan whose brilliant deft flick released Oguz and he slipped a low finish worthy of a stunning move under McCallan to put his side back in the driver's seat after 45 minutes.

Still Carrickmore battled. Substitute Mark Donnelly and Fullerton (another free) pulled points back and, after Harte was booked when he had scythed down Rory Donnelly, another point from Fullerton meant there were just two in it with five minutes left.

Errigal withdrew everyone one behind the ball and Carrickmore struggled to find a way through them. Harte released Darragh Canavan who raced into space and scored his second point of the game.

Another Fullerton free cancelled it out but although McGarrity's point left just two between the sides, time ran out on Carrickmore and delighted Errigal hordes invaded the field at the final whistle.

Errigal Ciaran: D McAnenly; Ciaran Quinn, M Kavanagh (0-2), D Morrow; Cormac Quinn, N Kelly, P Og McCartan; P O'Hanlon, P Harte (0-1); B McDonnell (0-1), T Canavan (0-1 free), P McGirr (1-0); R Canavan (0-2), D Canavan (0-3, 0-1 free), J Oguz (1-1)

Subs: P Traynor for Morrow (33), E Kelly for O'Hanlon (45), C Corrigan for Kavanagh (55), C McGinley for McGirr (60)

Yellow cards: Oguz (10), McCartan (32), T Canavan (34), Harte (55)

Carrickmore: J McCallan; S Sweeney, L McBride (0-1), S Loughran; N Allison, R Donnelly, R Slane (0-1); D Fullerton (0-6, 0-5 frees), S Donnelly; C Munroe, J Donaghy, A Fullerton; L McGarrity (0-2, 0-1 free, 0-1 mark), M Penrose (1-1), C Daly

Subs: B Conway for S Loughran (HT), R Loughran for Daly (HT), M Donnelly (0-1) for S Donnelly (47), B McLaughlin for Slaine (60)

Yellow cards: Penrose (20), J Donaghy (34), C Munroe (48)

Referee: S Campbell (Stewartstown)

GAA Football