Earning spot in final is a dream come true for us, says Regan
Clontibret 0-9 Naomh Conaill 0-12
A Naomh Conaill side that continues to mock the formbook and virtually defy the forces of nature is today getting ready for an Ulster Club final appearance which manager Martin Regan hails as "a dream come true".
Having taken three games in which to dispose of current Donegal and Ulster champions Gaoth Dobhair before sweeping aside the challenge of Castlerahan in the provincial quarter-final, Regan's men made their most defiant statement to date when toppling fancied Clontibret in this semi-final at Healy Park, Omagh.
No wonder, then, that former player Regan was effusive in his praise of his players' efforts.
"We got off to a good start but then we lost AJ Gallagher to a black card and that unsettled us for a while but in the second half I thought we showed tremendous character in closing out the game," beamed Regan.
"It's a dream come true for us to be in this final."
The temperature may have been sub-zero but Naomh Conaill warmed the cockles of their supporters' hearts by streaking into an almost inconceivable 0-6 to 0-1 lead by the end of the first-quarter with Eoghan McGettigan inflicting most of the damage with three points.
But not for the first time in his distinguished career, Conor McManus spared his team's blushes by snapping up three points (two frees) to leave them 0-7 to 0-3 in arrears at the break.
And it was McManus in tandem with Francis Hughes who inched the Monaghan champions to within touching distance of their opponents at 0-8 to 0-6 with the third quarter still in its infancy.
But that was as good as it got for John McEntee's men. Ciaran Thompson and McGettigan each whipped over a brace of points and this two-fold bonanza injected their side with a fresh rush of adrenaline.
Late Clontibret points from McManus and substitute Darragh Hughes were rendered meaningless as Naomh Conaill strode imperiously into the Ulster final.
Disappointed Clontibret boss McEntee was philosophical at the finish.
"We allowed them to steal a march on us by getting that 0-6 to 0-1 lead and although we trimmed it back, we did not play in the manner in which we can," admitted McEntee. "We missed chances and paid the penalty."
Clontibret scorers: C McManus 0-6 (5f), D Mone, F Hughes, D Hughes 0-1 each.
Naomh Conaill scorers: E McGettigan 0-6 (4f), C Thompson 0-3 (1f), L McLoone, K McGettigan, B McDyer 0-1 each.
Referee: Noel Mooney (Cavan)