Football

Deadly Donaghy strikes at the death to send Dungannon into Trillick semi

Paul Donaghy finished with 1-7 in Sunday's Tyrone SFC quarter-final win over Dromore. Picture by Oliver McVeigh
Paul Donaghy finished with 1-7 in Sunday's Tyrone SFC quarter-final win over Dromore. Picture by Oliver McVeigh Paul Donaghy finished with 1-7 in Sunday's Tyrone SFC quarter-final win over Dromore. Picture by Oliver McVeigh

Connolly’s of Moy Tyrone SFC quarter-final: Dungannon 2-12 Dromore 3-8

IT’S days like these that restore any lost faith in football.

Sun shining as autumn was welcomed with open arms, a pitch in Dunmoyle that more closely resembled the green baize of the Crucible threatre than the muddy fare typical of this time of year – and an electric, end-to-end game settled by a brilliant Paul Donaghy score that sent Dungannon into a semi-final showdown with Trillick.

It was a joy to behold from beginning to end, but this one will take a while to get out of the system for 2021 champions Dromore.

With artful dodger Niall Sludden running amok at times, bagging his side’s first goal eight minutes in, the St Dympna’s had the game by the scruff at half-time.

Even when they lost their way after the break, finding themselves trailing by four with three minutes left, Dromore were thrown an unlikely lifeline.

As both sides set up following Ronan McNabb jr’s classy score, Clarke’s ’keeper Daire Martin sent the resulting kick-out straight into the same man’s waiting arms – McNabb jr couldn’t believe his luck, slotting home to level it up.

They had the chance to win it too, cutting through Dungannon again a minute into added time, only for substitute Colm MacRory’s fisted effort to drift agonisingly wide of the uprights. Head in hands, his reaction spoke of how golden an opportunity it was.

Still, there’s a punk rock, devil-may-care kind of an edge that stands to the Clarke’s on days like these. Instead of being happy to take extra-time, the ball was swiftly worked up to Donaghy in front of the Dungannon dugout.

Without a second’s thought he shimmied away from Nathan McCarron before curling over the bar to complete a personal haul of 1-7. He may not even have looked at the posts.

And yet, in keeping with the kind of kamikaze game it was, and Donaghy’s own mercurial nature, the first five minutes saw him kick two wides and drop one short, while raking balls from Mark McKearney only just evaded his fingertips.

As Dromore moved into a 1-2 to nothing lead, it looked like it could be one of those days for Chris Rafferty’s men. Did their heads drop? Did they start to play it safe instead? Did they hell.

Donaghy was perpetual motion, peeling out to the left and to the right all afternoon, while the towering Paddy Quinn proved what a handful he is.

And if the Tyrone championship has taught us anything, it’s that no game was ever won in the opening 10 minutes - often they’re only just settled after an hour, if at all.

Two frees - one off the left boot, one off the outside of the right - eventually got Donaghy and Dungannon up and running after Sludden coolly despatched to the net having picked Sean Molloy’s pocket.

Only a brilliant double save from Martin stopped Dromore extending their lead heading towards half-time, the Clarke’s ’keeper denying Cathal Colton from close range, before pushing Niall Sludden’s follow up around the post.

A Teague free and a Sean McNabb score after a rampaging run made it 1-5 to 0-4 at the break – but it wasn’t long until Dungannon were back on terms.

And while an error had led to Dromore’s goal, the favour was returned in the 35th minute when Dromore sweeper ’keeper Mark McGale was left in no man’s land by a loose pass 40 metres from goal.

Donaghy seized his moment with typical aplomb, sailing his shot tantalising over Dromore heads and into the net, before Quinn put the Clarke’s ahead for the first time.

Dromore were struggling to stymie the momentum shift until Emmett O’Neill broke through and slotted home, yet Dungannon kept coming, first levelling then seizing the initiative once more when Matthew Quinn palmed home after Ben Gormley had found himself in an inexplicable amount of space inside the square.

The sting in the tail came in the form of McNabb jr’s gifted goal, extra-time surely on the cards, but Dungannon’s uncanny ability to park any mishaps or moments of catastrophe was rewarded when the ball landed with Donaghy.

Confident flowing, game there for the winning, he was never going to pass up that opportunity – and he didn’t, dreams of emulating their remarkable 2020 title triumph still intact.

Trillick up next, and the prospect of another thriller to light up the Red Hand county.

Dungannon: D Martin; B Gormley, C Barker (0-1), S Molloy; M Quinn (1-0), C Devlin, M McKearney; K Barker, P McNulty; R Jones, D Jones, P McKearney (0-1); P Molloy, P Quinn (0-3), P Donaghy (1-7, 0-4 frees, 0-1 mark). Subs: O Cowan for P Molloy (39), J Quinn for P McKearney (49)

Yellow cards: D Jones (15), K Barker (36, 60)

Red card: K Barker (60)

Dromore: M McGale; N McCarron, P Teague (0-2, frees), C O’Neill; Cathal Colton, R McCusker, C O’Hara; C McCoy, S McNabb (0-1); E O’Neill (1-1), O Rafferty, Conor Colton; D McNulty (0-1), N Sludden (1-2), T Sludden. Subs: R McNabb jr (1-1) for Rafferty (16), T McCarron for McNulty (40), C MacRory for T Sludden (49), R McNabb sr for McCusker (49), O Sludden for E O’Neill (55)

Yellow cards: O Rafferty (12), P Teague (15), C O’Neill (28), T Sludden (44)

Referee: S Campbell (Stewartstown)