Champions Coalisland were sent crashing out in a gripping Tyrone SFC semi-final yesterday as 2015 champions Trillick secured a 0-13 to 0-12 win.
Former Tyrone attacker Lee Brennan kicked some terrific long-range frees to seal the deal for a St Macartan’s side that made little of the wind in their faces as they overturned a two points interval deficit.
Trillick went two ahead early on with scores from the Donnelly brothers, Mattie and Richie, but Coalisland put pressure on the opposition kick-outs to create opportunities for Cathaoir Quinn and Michael McKernan as they went ahead.
Tiarnan Quinn kept their noses in front at the end of the opening quarter, with Plunkett Kane winning possession around the middle.
But a couple of Brennan frees and a Ryan Gray effort had Trillick ahead by the 22nd minute. However, the title-holders stepped up the tempo in the closing stages of the half, kicking four of the remaining five points, with Cormac O’Hagan converting a ’45 and a long-range free.
Tiarnan Quinn’s third edged them into a 0-9 to 0-7 interval lead, but the St Macartan’s renewed the intensity to go level again, through Lee Brennan and Ryan Gray.
Although playing into the wind, they continued to press, and a 50 metre free, drilled through the posts by Brennan, had them ahead going into the final quarter.
Trillick lost Niall Donnelly and Daire Gallagher to black cards, but continued to battle with Brennan nailing another couple of gems from placed balls.
Coalisland responded with efforts from Paddy McNeice and Peter McGahan, but their title was slipping and they became the 14th successive Tyrone champion to fail in the defence of the O’Neill Cup.
In the other semi-final, Errigal Ciaran defeated Carrickmore by 1-11 to 0-9, with Peter Harte hitting seven points and teenager Darragh Canavan hitting a superb first-half goal.
Mickey Donaghy’s long-range free eased Carrickmore in front, but Errigal encouraged Ben McDonnell, Mark Kavanagh and Stefan Tierney to push forward at every opportunity, and they were able to exploit space in the cover to create openings.
Pauric McAnenly, Peter Harte and McDonnell all sent over scores as Carrickmore dropped back in numbers.
But they were able to counter with pace, and Martin Penrose got out in front of his marker to collect Niall Loughran’s long delivery and convert
And they were level by the end of the opening quarter after Rory Grimes had landed a score from distance.
In the 20th minute, Errigal struck for a brilliant goal. McAnenely threaded the perfect pass for Canavan to collect, turn his marker and rifled a stunning shot just inside Jack McCallan’s post. Harte scored in stoppage time sent the Dunmoyle men in with a 1-4 to 0-3 interval lead.
It was an uphill battle for a Carrickmore side chasing the game and tiring on a heavy sod, feeling the effects of a midweek replay win over Edendork.
Donaghy and Sean Donnelly kept Carrickmore in touch, with Niall Allison on target in response to scores from Darren Canavan and Harte, who thumped a 50 metre free between the uprights.
When Donaghy converted a free, four points separated the sides heading into the final ten minutes, and Carrickmore’s famous powers of recovery still presented a threat.
Conor Gormley and Penrose were on target, and as they pressed late on for the scores that would save their season, Errigal defended solidly, with Niall Kelly, Ciaran Quinn and Damian McDermott putting in crucial challenges.
Inevitably, Carrickmore were left open at the back, and breakaway scores from Harte and McAnenly sealed Errigal’s place in the decider.