Belfast Telegraph

Monday 20 October 2014

Cassidy on cusp of taking Clonoe to another title

High hopes: Connor McAliskey has been in form under Cassidy

No wonder Clonoe think so highly of their manager Damian Cassidy.

Back in 2008, he led them to the county title, their seventh-ever title that bridged a gap back to 1991 and the side that won five titles between 1958 and 1965.

Cassidy implemented his gameplan based on workrate and honesty. In a tense county final characterised for its doggedness and the struggle of two teams to exert some control, they took the tie to extra-time before winning out 0-10 to 0-9.

That victory was all the evidence needed for Derry to take a chance on Cassidy and he managed his own county for two seasons before returning to take Clonoe to the county final of 2011. Despite a late flurry of scores, they ended up on the wrong end of a one-point margin, again to Dromore.

And now, he has brought them back into another final, against Carrickmore this coming Sunday in Healy Park.

They did it the hard way too, beating holders Errigal Ciaran in the semi-final in Dungannon last Sunday, Peter Harte's late goal putting a false gloss on a 1-16 to 1-10 scoreline.

One of Cassidy's coaching triumphs has been the nurturing of Connor McAliskey.

Last season, he was the leading scorer in the Tyrone Championship with a stream of performances that led to his call-up.

Against Errigal he hit 0-4, two of them frees, before explaining how his team have negotiated their way through a hectic Championship campaign.

"We were comfortable winners against Eglish in the quarter final a week earlier and straight after that game our sole focus was on Errigal Ciaran – because we knew that we were going to have to be at our best to beat them," he said.

"We had only a three-point lead at half-time despite having played with the wind but the lads showed great character and will to win and our second-half display was as good as we have played."

The performance of an impressive Clonoe rearguard also drew admiration from the attacker.

"Our defence was brilliant, the way that they put the pressure on Errigal Ciaran and pressed them around the 50," he added.

"They all play well as a unit and are difficult to break down and they forced Errigal Ciaran into shooting from long range.

"They are all capable footballers and they showed their versatility there today as well with three of them featuring on the scoresheet."

With only seven days from semi-final to final, both sides will be facing the same scenario.

McAliskey however is keen to saddle the Carmen with the favourites' tag.

"If you look at the Championship pedigree that Carrickmore have, it's right up there with the best and we are well aware of the task that faces us in the final next Sunday," he said.

"We haven't much time to prepare for the final, but we will be giving it everything that we have because we know that is what it is going to take to beat Carrickmore."

In the first round, McAliskey notched 1-2 against Omagh before following that with 0-8 against Eglish. His contribution can unlock the Carrickmore defence, but for one so young, it is a responsibility he will relish.

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