Scotstown see off spirited Trillick in a tight semi-final
Scotstown 2-9 Trillick 2-7
On the sort of trying underfoot conditions which are unique to the Ulster Club Championship series, it was Monaghan champions Scotstown who emerged victorious with two points to spare against a courageous and plucky Trillick outfit at sodden Brewster Park.
A hugely entertaining contest, which contained more than its fair share of attacking play, it was Scotstown who refused to blink in a third quarter stalemate where Trillick's inefficiency in front of the posts ultimately proved to be their downfall.
For a full 20 second-half minutes, the scoreboard operator was a redundant figure at the Enniskillen venue, but try as they might Trillick could not find the score which would have brought them level, as the young St Macartan's side, who have blazed such a trail in this year's Championship series, learned a costly lesson in the need for efficiency in front of the posts.
Lee Brennan and Mattie Donnelly in particular had golden opportunities to tie the game, but both efforts went astray.
And it was left to Scotstown goalkeeper Rory Beggan to fire over a 48 metre free in injury time as the insurance point for his side. But it was a player at the opposite end of the field who once again was the key figure for Scotstown.
A 1-4 first half salvo from Darren Hughes set up Scotstown's win over Slaughtneil last day out, and he accounted for 2-2 of his side's 2-9 tally against Trillick.
His first goal came 18 minutes in when he met a floated ball in from his younger sibling Kieran on the edge of the small square to raise the green flag, while his second came six minutes into the second period when he reacted quickest to his colleague Conor McCarthy's shot coming back off the upright to slam the ball to the back of the Trillick net, and in doing so open up a five-point cushion for his side.
Unsurprisingly, Scotstown boss Mattie McGleenan was glowing in his praise of his full-forward's contribution to proceedings in such adverse weather conditions.
"Darren had a super game, his two goals and his movement and positioning for the first goal was absolutely fantastic, a lovely wee knock-down into the corner of the net, it was class," he said.
"In weather conditions like we had today, there's always a chance a ball might come off a post, might come out of somebody's hands or spill in around that area, so you have to be in on top of it. And brilliantly for us, Darren was in the right place at the right time and took a super goal."
But Scotstown certainly did not have it all their own way by any stretch of the imagination. It was Trillick who had scored the first major of the day when Mattie Donnelly, the orchestrator for his side, spotted Daniel McDonnell in space, and the wing-back finished smartly after 16 minutes, only for Hughes to goal his first of the afternoon within a minute. A Shane Carey pointed free in injury time had afforded his side a slender one-point lead at the break, before a 1-1 salvo for Hughes at the start of the second half seemed to have put his side firmly in the driving seat.
But Trillick refused to buckle, and within two minutes of Hughes' second goal they found the net for the second time themselves, corner-forward Niall Gormley shrugging off the challenge of three Scotstown defenders before rifling home his shot.
But despite their best efforts, with Mattie and Richard Donnelly, Proinsias O'Kane and Niall Donnelly to the fore, within a point was as close as Trillick would get as Scotstown successfully held back wave after red wave of attacks from the Tyrone men, as they booked their provincial final spot for the first time since they won the last of their four provincial crowns way back in 1989.
Looking ahead to the Ulster final in two weeks' time, and a clash against perennial provincial kingpins Crossmaglen Rangers, McGleenan insists that his Scotstown side will leave no stone unturned in search of the edge they need in order to compete.
"Crossmaglen's name is synonymous with Ulster club football. We're delighted to be there," he said.
"They'll be 100% on to win the game, but Scotstown is a wonderful football team, they have trained their socks off to get to this point, and we just want to go and give a really good display in the final."
Scotstown: R Beggan (0-2, 2 frees); D McArdle, E Caulfield, B McGinnity; M Duffy, K Hughes, F McPhillips; F Caulfield, J Turley; O Heaphey (0-2), D Morgan, C McCarthy (0-1); S Carey (0-2, 2 frees), D Hughes (2-2), R McKenna. Subs: Brendan Boylan for Brian McGinnity (HT); D McCague for R McKenna (43 min); D McCrudden for O Heaphey (62min)
Trillick: J Maguire; S O'Donnell, R Kelly, D Kelly; N Donnelly (0-1), R Brennan, D McDonnell (1-0); R Donnelly (0-1), E Gormley (0-2); M Donnelly, P O'Kane, S Kelly; N Gormley (1-1), L Brennan (0-1, 1 free), D Gallagher (0-1). Subs: S Gormley for S Kelly (46min), R Gray for D Gallagher (58min)
Referee: Ciaran Branagan (Down)