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O'Neill's late strike secures eighth Tyrone Senior Football title for Omagh

By Declan Bogue

There were a few choice lines in the speech of Omagh captain Hugh Gallagher on the steps of Healy Park, but perhaps the funniest was when he proclaimed that it was time for the "shortest homecoming in history!"

For this was a sweet day for them, their eighth title won off a Carrickmore side that are the essence of durability and like most breakthrough triumphs, it was done the hard way.

With a minute left, Conor Gormley linked a move together to put Martin Penrose in enough space to get a massive shot away that put Carrickmore a point ahead after the teams had been level seven times in the game.

However, by that stage they were down to 14 men with the dismissal of Raymond Munroe and so Omagh were able to work short kickouts.

The ball was worked to late substitute Cathal McCarron who hoisted a hopeful punt forward from under the stand.

Ronan O'Neill was left isolated on marker Mickey Slane and gave him a helpful nudge of his hips. He went in on goal and rounded Plunkett McCallan, holding off two challengers to tap home and seal the win, a final siege by Carrickmore on the Omagh goal notwithstanding.

Victorious Omagh manager Laurence Strain revealed afterwards, relief flooding his face; "The pass, I was screaming at him (Cathal McCarron) to keep possession. You wouldn't want anyone in there but Rony, to be honest. He's the man for us."

It represented Carrickmore's fourth final defeat in eight years. On the balance of play it would be difficult to make a solid argument that either entirely deserved it.

Omagh played a very conservative counter-attacking game that left only Connor O'Donnell up front. Hampered by injury and well-marshalled by Colm McGurk, Omagh's only scoring threat came with runs from deep by the seriously-impressive Barry Tierney, and the dead-ball excellence of O'Neill.

Tactically however, they appeared to have the measure of Carrickmore from the beginning.

Carrickmore's tactic of going long with every kickout paid dividends for Conan Grugan, until Conor Gormley grew into the game and bent it to his will.

With Omagh retreating so far the Carrickmore wing-backs Michael Donaghy and Ruairi Loughran enjoyed a certain amount of freedom, Loughran hitting two excellent points in the opening half. Their scores came from all means, including one from Paul McAleer who diligently followed a Penrose shot in that was tailing wide.

That opportunism left them ahead at the break by two points but it might have been more when Penrose burst past Grugan, dished it off to midfielder Niall Loughran who though he had flicked it to the net only for Joe McMahon to push it onto the post.

Two O'Neill frees and another from distance from McMahon had Omagh level before a barnstorming run and shot from out the field by Tierney put Omagh in front with 10 minutes remaining.

Penrose hit back with his two points as Carrickmore made a final push for glory.

However, just as the Omagh ribbons were about to be taken off the cup, Omagh hit back with that last-minute goal.

Next up is a home tie against the champions of Armagh on November 2.

OMAGH: R Clarke; H Gallagher (Capt), Justin McMahon, S Mullan; C McLaughlin, B Tierney 0-2, C McMahon; Joe McMahon 0-1, 1f, C Grugan 0-2, 2f; A Grugan, J McAnulla 0-1, C O'Neill; C O'Donnell, R O'Neill 1-4, 2f, C Meyler

Subs: M Flanagan for C O'Neill (40m), C Starrs for McLaughlin (46m), C McCarron for Meyler (59m)

CARRICKMORE: P McCallan; M Slane, C McGurk, J Monroe; M Donaghy 0-1, 1f, B McLaughlin, R Loughran 0-2; N Loughran, C Gormley 0-1 (Capt); F Magill, M Penrose 0-5, 2f, M Gallagher; P McAleer 0-3, M Donnelly, D Fox

Subs: C Daly for Fox (30m), P McMahon for Magill (45m), A Kelly for M Gallagher (55m), B Daly for McAleer (59m)

Referee: Sean Hurson (Galbally)

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