The senior league final will be a mouth-watering local derby between Clonoe and Coalisland after the O’Rahillys ended Errigal Ciaran’s double hopes in a hard fought semi final at O’Rahilly Park yesterday afternoon, writes Kevin Kelly.
Given the fact that they had competitive games in recent times it was Errigal Ciaran who went into the game as favourites but they struggled to get going without the influential Peter Harte who was ruled out after breaking a bone in his hand in their Ulster Club semi final a week earlier against Crossmaglen.
Clonoe led by five points at the interval and when they stretched that lead to 0-9 to 0-1 within five minutes of the restart it looked to be all over bar the shouting. That’s when the visitors demonstrated just why they are county champions as they produced a rousing comeback that saw them draw level with time running out. They had all the momentum at that stage and looked the likely winners but the O’Rahillys showed battling qualities of their own as they refused to panic and Conor McAliskey’s sixth point of the afternoon three minutes from time proved to be the winning score.
It was a keenly contested clash from start to finish with no quarter asked for or given with all players giving it everything that they had. The winners had good performances from Aidan Brady, Stephen McNulty, Colm Doris, Paul Coney Ryan T O’Neill and McAliskey while Errigal Ciaran were best served by Aidan McCrory, Davy Harte, Enda McGinley and Darren Canavan.
Both sides took time to settle into the game with Tommy Canavan coming closest to opening the scoring only to see his shot come back off the post before the danger was cleared. It took ten minutes for the opening score to arrive via a long range McAliskey free after Colm Doris was fouled before Ryan T O’Neill doubled their advantage with a superb effort from out on the right wing after going past a couple of challenges.
By the end of the opening quarter the O’Rahillys were three points to the good after corner forward Niall Kilpatrick landed another fine score. Clonoe were well on top at this stage and when right half back Sean Hughes took a pass from McAliskey to strike a superb score from out on the left wing. In the twenty first minute Errigal Ciaran keeper John Devine came to his side’s rescue with a superb save to deny McAliskey after he had been sent clear by an outstanding pass from Stephen McNulty.
Darren Canavan then opened Errigal Ciaran’s account from a place ball in the 24th minute but that was their only score of the half. McAliskey knocked over a thirteen metre free before centre half forward Paul Coney showed great strength to burst through to split the posts to bring the first half scoring to a close.
McAliskey opened the second half scoring with a sweetly struck “45” before he added another point from a close in free. Clonoe had picked up were they had left off and when a long ball from McNulty picked out McAliskey the full forward turned sharply to score from play. The home side than failed to score for eighteen minutes as Errigal Ciaran fought back. Tommy Canavan pointed from play via the post before his brother Darren added another fine point from play. Errigal Ciaran were starting to play the football that they are capable off and after Darren Canavan had converted two frees Bryan Horisk offloaded the ball for substitute Patrick McDermott to fire in a 46th minute goal.
With eight minutes left to play Errigal Ciaran right half back Stefan Tierney landed a wonderful score from out on the left wing to level matters and at that stage they looked the likely winners. Coney then edged Clonoe back in front but back came Errigal Ciaran with Tommy Canavan converting a free.
It looked set for extra time at that stage but Clonoe managed to win a free through Colm Doris and McAliskey held his nerve to convert from forty metres out. Errigal Ciaran pushed hard for the equaliser but a resilient Clonoe held out to set up a decider with a Coalisland side who are the only team to beat them in the league this season.