The hallmark of the Tyrone champions’ run thus far has been late goals and epic comebacks, but this time they were hanging on trying to protect a four-point lead in the second half, during which time they failed to score for 22 minutes.
When Joe McMahon was forced to go off through injury, Omagh collapsed in midfield and Rory Kavanagh’s influence grew as the momentum shifted towards St Eunan’s.
Having been second best for most of the tie, scores from Conor Morrison and Sean McVeigh brought St Eunan’s to within a point with seven minutes remaining.
However Conor McMahon, the younger brother of Tyrone All-Ireland winners Joe and Justin, ended the scoring drought in the 54th minute and then tagged on another point following a precision pass by Ronan O’Neill, to seal the victory.
“It was a very poor last 20 minutes from us, but we battled to the end,” said a relieved Omagh manager Larry Strain.
Aaron Grugan, one of team’s industrious playmakers, smiled after surviving another dramatic finale.
“We showed character to get through but we are giving our supporters heart attacks,” he said.
“It was the complete opposite of other games where our backs were against the wall and we had to come out trying to rescue the game.”
Omagh’s pace on the counter-attack and slick passing game ensured they fully merited their 1-5 to 0-5 half-time lead.
They were denied two excellent goal chances by Eunan’s keeper Shaun Patton before Barry Tierney’s low finish beat him in the 24th minute.
Tyrone star Ronan O’Neill and St Eunan’s full-forward Cillian Morrison lit up the first half with some excellent scores.
Despite having two men marking him at all times, O’Neill scored three points from play in the opening half hour, two of them from the tightest of angles.
Morrison was making his first start in four years due to soccer commitments with Cork City and capitalised on getting early ball with two points in a minute to put St Eunan’s 0-3 to 0-2 ahead after eight minutes.
Tierney’s low finish after a lovely weighted pass from Ronan O’Neill gave Omagh a useful three-point cushion which they still held at the end of the game.
Scores were hard to come by in the second half and Omagh became too defensive after Jason McAnulla’s point immediately after the restart put them four points up.
St Eunan’s closed the gap to 1-6 to 0-8 but Conor McMahon ended Omagh’s scoring drought after 54 minutes and followed it up with another score to settle his team five minutes later.
Both sides were reduced to 14 players in injury-time, Caolan Ward (St Eunan’s) and Conan Grugan (Omagh) picking up black and yellow cards respectively, but neither dismissal had any impact.
Cillian Morrison almost snatched an equalising goal late on, after a pass from John Haran, but his shot was well wide.
St Eunan’s manager Maxi Curran refused to blame fatigue as a factor and insisted his players “can hold their heads up high” after a marathon campaign.
“It’s been a brilliant journey and we came up just short.”
Omagh will face Slaughtneil in the Ulster decider on November 30.
R O’Neill 0-3, B Tierney 1-0, C McMahon 0-3, C O’Donnell, J McAnulla 0-1 each
Cillian Morrison 0-2, R Carr 0-1 (f), C Dunne 0-1 (f), R Kavanagh, S McVeigh, C Gibbons, Conor Morrison 0-1 each
R Clarke; H Gallagher, Justin McMahon, S Mullan; C McLaughlin, B Tierney, C McMahon; Joe McMahon, C Grugan; A Grugan, J McAnulla, C O’Neill; C O’Donnell, R O’Neill, C Meyler
Subs: C McCarron for Joe McMahon (42), C Starrs for C O’Neill (48), D Kerr for McLaughlin (57), J Colton for C McMahon (60)
S Patton; C Park, S Hensey, Conor Morrison; C Ward, E Doherty, D Mulgrew; K Rafferty, R Kavanagh; C Gibbons, C Dunne, S McVeigh; R Carr, J Haran, Cillian Morrison
Subs: M McGowan for Hensey (HT), M Miller for McGowan (52)
Noel Mooney (Cavan)