Football

Trillick well used to overcoming adversity says Liam Gray

Trillick's Liam Gray (right) Picture: Seamus Loughran
Trillick's Liam Gray (right) Picture: Seamus Loughran Trillick's Liam Gray (right) Picture: Seamus Loughran

FOR every man that Trillick lose, another is waiting to step in and do a job, according to midfielder Liam Gray.

Richie and Daniel Donnelly are both set to miss Sunday’s Tyrone Division One League final against Carrickmore due to injury and suspension respectively.

But the Reds have overcome setbacks already in a character-building season, winning the county championship despite season-ending injuries to key players Mattie Donnelly and Michael Gallagher.

A straight red card picked up in last weekend’s league semi-final win over Killyclogher rules Daniel Donnelly out of the decider, while Richie was forced off midway through the first half by an ankle injury.

“In fairness, meeting challenges like that all year is how we have built the squad,” said Gray.

“There’s 25 boys ready at any minute to step on to the pitch.

“It’s tough to lose them, but it’s just a matter of next man up, and whatever man pulls on the red jersey, he’ll be expected to do a job. No matter who it is, he’ll step up.”

While the championship trophy is the big prize, the Tyrone league title is also highly valued, and seen not just as a badge of honour but also a stepping stone to greater achievements.

Last year Trillick won the league and followed it up this season with the club’s ninth championship triumph.

“We said at the start of the year that we want to be competing and winning any competition that we’re in,” said 23-year-old Gray.

“The Tyrone league is highly competitive and there’s good value in it.

“We got good value out of winning it last year, so this year is no different.”

Trillick have completed the league and championship double once before, and four decades on, the class of 2023 is keen to match the feat of the men of 1983.

“It’s 40 years since Trillick won the double. You don’t need to say what those men have done for Trillick and what they have done for members of this squad,” said Gray.

“Obviously we want to replicate their success, but we’re keen to write our own legacy and history.

“So it’s just a matter of every man putting his shoulder to the wheel.”

Carrickmore have had to wait six weeks since their semi-final victory over Dromore, due to Trillick’s involvement in the Ulster Club SFC, but will have had ample opportunity to observe and assess the defending champions ahead of the Healy Park decider.

“They have the advantage of sitting back and getting to watch us on our run,” said Gray.

“We’ll not take anything for granted. We know all about Carrickmore’s history and their values.

“There’ll be nothing in it, it will be the same as every game we have played this year, it will be another battle.”

Trillick had just a week to process the hurt and disappointment of their narrow Ulster semi-final defeat to Scotstown, before returning to domestic action.

But they focused on the next challenge, and fielded a full strength team for the semi-final meeting with Kilyclogher.

Gray’s spectacular goal and a Simon Garrity strike helped them build an eight-point lead at Ballinamulan, but they were reeled in by Killyclogher, and just two points separated the sides at the end.

“We have had challenges thrown at us all year – penalties, extra-time, you name it – but we have played through it,” said Gray.

“We knew that Killyclogher were going to be gunning for us, and that’s exactly what they did.

“Going down to 14 men and losing Richie as well didn’t make it any easier, so we were just glad to get through it.

“Everyone stepped up in that second half, you couldn’t fault any man there.”