GAA: Omagh through to Ulster club final

St. Enda's Stephen Mullan and St. Eunan's John Haran.'''Mandatory Credit Photo Lorcan Doherty / Presseye.com
St. Enda's Stephen Mullan and St. Eunan's John Haran.'''Mandatory Credit Photo Lorcan Doherty / Presseye.com

Omagh became the first Tyrone team to reach the Ulster Senior Club final since Errigal Ciaran in 2002 as they overcame St Eunan’s of Letterkenny by three points in Celtic Park on Sunday.

Laurence Strain’s side had to show real tenacity in the closing minutes to hang on against the Donegal champions, having looked fairly comfortable midway through the half.

The loss of Joe McMahon to injury, that believed to be a dead leg, was a turning point as Letterkenny began to take control around midfield.

The St Enda’s played some scintillating football in the opening 30 minutes and could have been much further ahead at the break but for some poor finishing when through on goal.

As it was they led by three point at the break thanks to a stunning team goal finished cooly by Barry Tierney.

Tierney and his fellow defenders spent much of their afternoon attacking the Letterkenny defence and constantly popped up on the overlap to score.

Tierney’s penetrating run with 26 minutes on the clock was sublimely picked out by an in-form Ronan O’Neill and the county defender shot low past a despairing Shaun Patton in the St Eunan’s goal.

The game had been a very even contest up until that point, on the scoreboard at least.

Ronan O’Neill had opened the scoring for Omagh with a smartly taken effort after 3 minutes.

The Donegal men responded almost immediately as Conor Gibbons popped up to hit right back just a minute later.

In an open contest Omagh’s ace marksman O’Neill showed his quality with a point from an acute angle.

Late addition to the St Eunan’s side Cillian Morrison really made his presence felt in attack and the lively forward kicked two quick scores to give Letterkenny the lead after nine minutes.

Omagh then began to dominate and began to carve St Eunan’s open with some crafty passing moves.

Conor McMahon, a brother of Joe and Justin, got forward to kick his first score of the game from wingback and a minute later produced a fine tackle to deny Letterkenny.

Omagh really should have found the net after 13 minutes when Aaron Grugan picked out Cormac O’Neill, who fired low to the keeper’s right but Patton produced a stunning save to turn the effort out for a 45.

Conor O’Donnell kicked a well taken score to put Omagh into the lead once again, but Rory Carr swept over a brilliantly struck free from 45 metres to bring the sides level for the fourth time.

A couple of minutes later Omagh could have hit the net again as corner back Stephen Mullan fisted across the Letterkenny goal but neither the on-rushing Jason McAnulla or Barry Tierney could get a telling touch to turn the ball goalward.

That was to prove a let off for the Donegal champions as Ronan O’Neill found Barry Tierney for the decisive goal.

A free from Conal Dunne brought St Eunan’s to within two points as the half entered injury time but Ronan O’Neill swept over another stunning point from play to leave his side three points to the good at the break.

The floodlights came on at Celtic Park at half-time and the second half was a real battle of attrition as both sides fought for supremacy.

Omagh began the half with a McAnulla point but by and large the opening 10 minutes was fairly uneventful stuff.

Omagh could have killed the game as a contest 10 minutes into the second half when good work from Joe McMahpn put McAnulla clear on goal.

As the defence retreated, McAnulla opted to pass to O’Neill who stepped inside and fired a goal bound shot low to at the Letterkenny goal. He squeezed the ball past the despairing dive off goalkeeper Patton but couldn’t find a way past wing-back Darragh Mulgrew, who dived low to his left to prevent the goal.

In the build up to the shot Joe McMahon had taken a knock and his forced withdrawal seemed to shake the St Enda’s.

Letterkenny reeled off three points in a row to reduce Omagh’s lead to a solitary score.

However, just when Omagh seemed to be struggling Conan Grugan produced a brilliant catch and run, driving at the Letterkenny defence.

He found Conor Starrs and Starrs found Conor McMahon on the overlap to give Omagh a two point lead.

With three minutes to go Grugan again won a ball in the middle that he no right to win and began an Omagh attack that eventual saw Ronan O’Neill pick out Conor McMahon. The wing-back added his third as Omagh moved clear.

Late goal chances for St Eunans didn’t threaten the Omagh goal as they held on for victory. Both sides lost men late on, St Eunan’s Caolan Ward and Omagh’s Conan Grugan sent off for second bookable offences.

Omagh now meet Derry Champions Slaughtneil in the Ulster final.