14-man Naomh Conaill force Trillick to hang on

Naomh Conaill (Donegal) 1-11 Trillick (Tyrone) 2-9: Tyrone champions Trillick hung on for dear life as they pipped Donegal’s Naomh Conaill in the AIB Ulster Club Championship quarter-final in Ballybofey yesterday.

Naomh Conaill’s first half wasn’t far short of a disaster as centre-back Anthony Thompson was sent off for an attempted headbutt on Proinsias O’Kane just 13 minutes in.

Then the Glenties side saw Dermot Molloy hobble off on 15 minutes and manager Martin Regan might’ve been forgiven for feeling the footballing gods were contriving against him.

Trillick, at that stage, were looking good. In just the third minute, Niall Gormley slotted home the first goal of the game when he was the most alert man on the field after a Lee Brennan effort at a point cannoned down off the upright.

Richard Donnelly and Brennan added really eye-catching scores and a minute before the break, the visitors crafted a splendid move which concluded with Daire Gallagher shooting past Stephen McGrath following a pass from full-back Ruairí Kelly.

Nigel Seaney’s Trillick were 2-4 to 0-4 in front at the break.

Football can sometimes be over-analysed and from the start of the second period, it seemed apparent that Naomh Conaill were just going to throw the kitchen sink at Trillick.

Johnny McLoone and Daragh Gallagher’s introductions brought experience to their ranks as they broke from the shackles.

In winning the Donegal SFC last month, they came from two points down following the dismissal of teenager Eoghan McGettigan to overcome St Eunan’s of Letterkenny 0-11 to 0-10.

Again, yesterday, their numerical disadvantage wasn’t so obvious in the second half.

Ciaran Thompson scored a brilliant goal on 36 minutes, when he drove right at the Trillick defence and hammered the ball into Joe Maguire’s top corner.

Substitute Gallagher started to pop over frees - he would score five times in the second half - with McLoone also chipping in with two as Trillick missed a couple of opportunities to extend their lead.

By the 48th minute the sides were level at 1-10 to 2-7 but it was Trillick’s resolve that shone through as they managed to pick off two scores in as minutes through Brennan and Richard Donnelly.

Naomh Conaill would come again with Gallagher scoring but they found it difficult to get through the Trillick rearguard who defended, by and large, with great discipline. Gallagher had a free at the bitter end to force extra-time but his kick from an awkward angle for a right-footer flashed across the goal and wide.

“We always said that we have the finishers,” Trillick captain Mattie Donnell said afterwards as his side look forward to a clash with Scotstown from Monaghan in the last four. “In the first half we were very economical. It’s a nice place to be in the last four of Ulster.”

Scorers for Naomh Conaill:

D Gallagher (0-5, 4f); C Thompson (1-0); J McLoone (0-2); B McDyer (f), D Molloy (f), J O’Malley (f), L Thompson (0-1 each).

Scorers for Trillick:

N Gormley (1-2); L Brennan (0-4, 2f); D Gallagher (1-0); R Donnelly (0-2); M Donnelly (0-1).

NAOMH CONAILL:

S McGrath; Aaron Thompson, AJ Gallagher, K McGettigan; M Boyle, Anthony Thompson, E Waide; C Thompson, L McLoone; E O’Donnell, D Molloy, E Doherty; J O’Malley, L Thompson, B McDyer.

Subs:

C Ellis for Molloy (15), J McLoone for O’Donnell (20), D Gallagher for Gallagher (half-time), S Corcoran for O’Malley (53), E O’Donnell for McDyer (53), B McDyer for Doherty (59).

TRILLICK:

J Maguire; S O’Donnell, R Kelly, D Kelly; N Donnelly, R Brennan, D McDonnell; R Donnelly, E Gormley; S Kelly, M Donnelly, P O’Kane; N Gormley, L Brennan, D Gallagher.

Subs:

S Gormley for E Gormley (45), F Donnelly for McDonnell (49).

Referee:

N Mooney (Cavan).

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