A sterling defensive display provided Dungannon with a winning foundation, as the Eoghan Ruadh men retained their Tyrone Senior Hurling Championship Crown courtesy of a merited triumph over Carrickmore, at Omagh on Sunday, writes Geoffrey Gillis.
The opening half proved to be a nip and tuck affair, as both teams battled with nerves, while poor distribution and shot selections meant there was nothing to choose between the teams. Dungannon showed ahead by the odd point in eleven at halftime thanks chiefly to the accuracy of full forward Damian Casey. The emerging star guided over four first half points on his way to a nine point tally before a solid second half defensive display eased them to a deserving victory.
Carrickmore battled manfully to frustrate Dungannon in the early skirmishes and, after Casey nudged the champions in front from a dead ball, Carrickmore levelled the contest on 4 minutes. SP Begley and Christy Meenagh featuring in the move that allowed Conor Grogan to point at the second attempt after Ryan Winters produced a superb block to thwart the initial effort.
Two Ciaran Slane frees had the Eire Og’s 3-2 to the good on 11 minutes and, when Grogan landed a second point, it was developing into an interesting contest with several meaty challenges illustrating the intense rivalry between the teams. Dungannon were struggling to get going although Ruairi Devlin initiated the attack that resulted in a Kiefer Morgan point for a 4-3 deficit on 16 minutes.
Several wides diminished the efforts of both teams before Carrickmore ended a lengthy scoring lull through Sean Og Grogan, who collected Meenagh’s poorly struck sideline to steer over. Amazingly, that 25th minute score was to be the challenger’s final point of the game as Casey took centre stage in the scoring stakes. He registered the final three points of the half - two frees either side of the score of the game on 28 minutes, when Conor Casey and Mark Winters fed Casey, who popped over his only point from open play. Dungannon 6-5 clear at the midway stage.
Two minutes into the second period, Casey was in on the scoring act again from a free and, while Carrickmore were creating chances it was evident they had to work for their opportunities. Slane saw a free drifting wide, while he saw an attempt from play striking a post with Casey showing ruthless accuracy to drill over successive frees for a 9-5 cushion after 36 minutes.
With Stephen Donnelly, Devlin and Padraig McHugh mopping up effectively around midfield Dungannon closed up shop. The industry of Martin Devlin and Ciaran McCrudden playing a pivotal role as the defending champions turned the screw. It was McHugh’s delivery that led to a Morgan score from play before two Casey frees established a 12-5 lead.
Carrickmore had lost their shape and direction despite the battling heroics of Begley, Martin Grogan and Gary Fox. The introduction of John Kerr failed to have the desired impact for the Eire Og’s, as their disappointing afternoon went from bad to worse in the 52nd minute.
Referee Sean Quinn awarded a penalty following Conor McNally’s poor challenge on Sean Og Grogan, but it was indicative of Carrickmore’s performance that McNally blocked Slane’s penalty strike on the line.
Goalkeeper John Devlin also dealing confidently with several shots that dropped short before Winters lofted over another inspirational score from distance. McErlean concluded Dungannon’s scoring with a fine point from play leaving Fox with the consolation of an injury time goal. Carrickmore’s first score in 37 minutes as Dungannon returned to the top of the SHC Roll of Honour.
Dungannon - John Devlin, Conor Casey, Ryan Winters, Conor McNally, Padraig McHugh, Stephen Donnelly, Ruairi Devlin, Martin Devlin, Mark Winters, Ciaran McCrudden, Tiernan Morgan, Cathal McErlean, Matthew Mulgrew, Damian Casey, Kiefer Morgan. Subs used - Brian McGilloway for K Morgan, Michael Maneely for Mulgrew, Paul Lavery for McCrudden
Scorers - Damian Casey 0-9, Kiefer Morgan 0-2, Mark Winters 0-1, Cathal McErlean 0-1, Matthew Mulgrew 0-1
Carrickmore - Conor McElhatton, Jason Kelly, Brendan Begley, Aidan McKernan, SP Begley, Martin Grogan, Dermot Begley, Aidan Kelly, Gary Fox, Christy Meenagh, Sean Og Grogan, Mark Mullan, Ciaran Slane, Conor Grogan, Brian McGurk. Subs used - Leigh Moore for Meenagh, Pearse McCallan for A McKernan, John Kerr for Mullan, Ronan Coyle for McGurk
Scorers - Gary Fox 1-0, Ciaran Slane 0-2, both frees, Conor Grogan 0-2 and Sean Og Grogan 0-1
Referee - Sean Quinn, Brackaville