Errigal Ciaran fall at final hurdle

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

THE Tyrone Senior Football Championship final went right to the wire as Errigal Ciaran emptied the tank in a desperate attempt to rescue their dream.

Omagh 0-10
Errigal Ciaran 0-8

But Omagh stood firm and survived to claim the O'Neill Cup for a ninth time, winning a second title in four seasons.

Just two points separated the sides at the finish, and had Peter Harte's first half penalty not struck a post, the outcome could have been altogether different.

However, the St Enda's held the balance for most of an intense decider, and they had the key men who were able to craft and execute scores, while Errigal depended heavily on Tyrone star Harte to keep them in the game.

It's been a character-building and enlightening campaign for an Errigal Ciaran side packed with emerging youngsters, and there's no doubt they'll be back stronger next season.

The newly crowned champions have more immediate commitments, not least a few days of celebrations, followed by an Ulster Club Championship clash with kingpins Slaughtneil.

"In Tyrone championship football you're never in control until the final whistle, and it proved to be there today again," said Omagh manager Paddy Crozier.

"We thought we were in the driving seat in the first half, but Errigal Ciaran, in typical fashion, they're always going to come back.

"Teams are going to get their purple patch, and that's what happened again. we thought we would come out in the second half and get the first score, but that didn't happen, and fair play to Errigal Ciaran, they really put it up to us."

But when the going got tough, Omagh had strong characters who were able to impose themselves on the game and make things happen, the likes of Conan Grugan, Ronan O'Neilp, Joe McMahon and Barry Tierney.

"These are all seasoned campaigners, and they have been through the mill three years ago in 2014 and it stands to them," Crozier added.

"You're always expecting your big names to stand up, but it's the next batch of players that stood up, and every one of them to a man did it today, subs included."

Had Peter Harte's first half penalty not come back off a post, the game may have gone in an entirely different direction.

"It was maybe against the run of play, but it was a penalty, and Peter would usually put them away, but maybe Lady Luck was with us."

This is Crozier's second stint as Omagh boss. Back in 2010 and 2011 he saw his side bow out at the semi-final stage, but this time he was delighted to have taken them all the way.

"Going back to 2010 and 2011, there was a lot of these young fellows 17 years of age, and their time has come. It's another step forward.

"They thought maybe they would have been in the final this last two years, but it didn't happen, but they're back again."

Next up it's an Ulster Club Championship clash with champions Slaughtneil, but Crozier reckoned there was some celebrating to be done before he started to plan for that one.

"We'll go away and enjoy this for a night or two, and then we'll re-assemble and see what the future holds."

Both sides had goal chances in the opening stages. Omagh's Cormac O'Neill had a shot cleared off the line by midfielder Ben McDonnell, and at the other end, Peter Harte's superb pass sent Ronan McRory in, but he was denied by a superb Niall McGinn save.

Harte had already eased Errigal ahead, but Omagh eased into a 0-3 to 0-1 lead with scores from Connor O'Donnell, Conan Grugan and Ronan O'Neill.

Errigal Ciaran were awarded a penalty for O'Neill's foul on Mark Kavanagh in the 21st minute, but Peter Harte, normally lethal from the spot, sent his kick against the butt of a post.

The St Enda's may have survived a major scare, but they had already established a foothold, forcing turnovers, and moving confidently from deep, with Barry Tierney and Conor Meyler making ground.

Grugan slotted over a free to send Omagh in with a 0-4 to 0-1 lead at the end of a tense opening half, but Errigal started the second period with greater intensity, narrowing the gap through Harte, who scored from play and a free.

Joe McMahon responded by driving through the middle for a terrific score, and when Peter Og McCartan and Omagh full forward Connor O'Donnell traded points, the St Enda's still led by three heading into the final quarter.

Errigal were reduced to 14 men when Eoin Quinn, who had already been booked, was black-carded on 49 minutes, as O'Donnell delighted the home crowd with another spectacular score.

But Errigal battled bravely, pulling back scores through substitute Darren Canavan and Harte, but Omagh had massively effective performers in Grugan, Tierney, Meyler and O'Neill.

By this stage Harte was carrying the fight almost single-handedly, with considerable help from teenage substitute Peter Og McCartan. Harte rifled over another score, followed by a Ryan Lynch free as the gap was trimmed to two in stoppage time, but Omagh held out in a desperate finish.


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