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Mattie Donnelly fires Trillick past Killclogher to claim crown

Trillick 1-9 Killclogher 0-11

By Declan Bogue

Published 12/10/2015

Forward thinking: Lee Brennan of Trillick clashes with Danny Gorman
Forward thinking: Lee Brennan of Trillick clashes with Danny Gorman

Declarations of joy from winning podiums are a delight at this time of year, but few can send the kind of tingles down a spine like Mattie Donnelly's "The Reds are back," call to arms in Healy Park sunshine, as Trillick ended 28 barren years without a Tyrone Championship with a one-point win over Killyclogher.

And Donnelly also put it best when he said that at the start of the year few would have predicted a Trillick-Killyclogher county final.

To give a scale of how unlikely this O'Neill Cup snatch-and-grab was, consider how Trillick were beaten by no fewer than 12 points in last year's Intermediate final by Dungannon Clarkes.

Nobody in Omagh was nerdish enough to comprehensively check the record books yesterday, but the consensus was that this is the first time a club have come up from Intermediate level to win a senior Championship, their seventh in total.

Their manager is Nigel Seaney, a former Fermanagh player from just across the border who said afterwards: "Last year we were in a position to win both the Intermediate Championship and League. We switched off, mentally more than physically, at two crucial times.

"I think this year the penny dropped. You are responsible for your performance.

"You don't win these games unless you deliver, and I think that happened both individually and collectively today."

His side benefited from two enormous moments that bookended this nervy, often times tedious game that was somewhat kept interesting by the closeness of the scoreboard.

After a mere 15 seconds a combination play through Richie Donnelly and the superb Rory Brennan found his brother Lee Brennan at the edge of the square to palm home.

It took Killyclogher most of the first half to wipe out that mistake and once that was achieved there was never more than two points between the sides.

Both team set up almost identically. Mark Bradley was the creative pivot for Killyclogher at the head of a triangle, with James Carlin and Leo Meenan inside. The attacking formation was repeated by Trillick, Daire Gallagher withdrawing from the full-forward line to allow Lee Brennan and Niall Gormley more space.

But with both half-forward units withdrawn into defence and neither side willing to risk possession, as well as the effectiveness of Killyclogher's Emmet McFadden and Trillick's Rory Brennan as sweepers, the match was one of suffocating, safety-first football.

It only became a sporting contest in the truest sense in the final 15 minutes, like most games now do.

That's when goalkeepers are less inclined to kick to their sweepers and something of the old spirit of one-on-one battles return to the sport.

Killyclogher went in at half-time one point ahead, 0-7 to 1-3 with seven different scorers. The only other incident worth noting coming when Conall McCann's tried to play a give-go with brother Tiernan, who handpassed the ball back across the face of the goal only for the ball to hit the Trillick crossbar and be smuggled to safety.

The second half featured a growing influence from Mattie Donnelly. He appeared almost regal in possession, fending off markers with one hand and remaining calm while in contained spaces.

Lee Brennan also began to find his range, having hit two wides in the first half, one from the dead ball. He converted frees that were hard-won by Richie Donnelly and Daire Gallagher as Trillick grabbed four points in a third-quarter push. At the same time, Killyclogher's composure deserted them, seven wides in total in the second half, but still they drew level when defender Gary Wallace popped up in the shooting zone to level it with eight minutes remaining.

But then Mattie Donnelly worked a short free to Lee Brennan to gain more attractive real estate closer to the opposition goal. Brennan was fouled by Danny Gorman and arrowed over to restore their lead.

Killyclogher then had another horrendous case of the yips, Aidy Kelly and Conall McCann hooking shots wide in the 56th and 57th minutes, before substitute Tomas Flanagan sent a spinning, looping shot between the sticks for the equaliser with one minute left on the clock.

The final, decisive play belonged to Trillick. Richie Donnelly ferried the ball to brother Mattie, who drew a foul in a thicket of Killyclogher men. Lee Brennan took his Championship tally to 2-27 to become the top scorer in the competition and claim the O'Neill Cup.

Trillick now sit back and await the winners of the Donegal final next Sunday, when Naomh Conaill and St Eunan's go to war.

In the meantime, they might think of adding a seventh star to their jersies.

TRILLICK: J Maguire; S O'Donnell, R Kelly, G McKenna; N Donnelly, R Brennan, F Donnelly; R Donnelly; E Gormley; M Donnelly (C), P O'Kane, S Kelly; N Gormley, L Brennan, D Gallagher. Subs: D Kelly for McKenna (half-time), S Gormley for S Kelly (47m), D McDonnell for F Donnelly (51m)

Yellow cards: O'Donnell (31m)

Black cards: 0

Red cards: 0

KILLYCLOGHER: S Fox; M Swift, D Gorman, G Sludden; G Wallace, D Carlin, E Bradley; C McCann, N McFadden; T McCann, J Carlin, A Kelly; L Meenan (C), M Bradley, E McFadden

Subs: T Flanagan for J Carlin (45m)

Yellow cards: L Meenan (18m), D Carlin (36m), E McFadden (44m)

Black cards: 0

Red cards: 0

Referee: Jerome McElroy (Aghaloo)

Attendance: 7,915

Belfast Telegraph

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