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Dungannon Clarkes hold nerve in an emotional triumph

Dungannon Clarkes 1-12 Trillick 1-12

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Champions: Dungannon Captain Padraig McNulty and his team celebrate with the O’Neill Cup

Champions: Dungannon Captain Padraig McNulty and his team celebrate with the O’Neill Cup

�INPHO/Lorcan Doherty

Michael Hagan and Gary McKenna

Michael Hagan and Gary McKenna

�INPHO/Lorcan Doherty

Champions: Dungannon Captain Padraig McNulty and his team celebrate with the O’Neill Cup

"Jesus lads, I can't stop crying!" said Dungannon captain Paudie McNulty on the steps of the Healy Park stand as he began his captain's speech, his side having just bridged 64 year a gap between O'Neill Cup successes.

In all four games of this campaign against Loughmacrory, Ardboe, Errigal Ciaran and now Trillick, they had to go to the well of extra-time. They never had to do penalties before now, while Trillick had in their win over Killyclogher.

And here's the astonishing thing - both teams had taken their initial five efforts with two misses apiece. The second round of five has to be the same players and, with two left to take, some people in the stand urged Tyrone county board Chairman Michael Kerr to call it off and order a replay.

We cannot say what Kerr's intentions might have been, but he left the stand to make his way to the pitch at this point. And then Trillick's Daire Gallagher put their final penalty over the bar.

Then Ciaran Barker, the corner back who was the hero that denied Errigal Ciaran in the semi-final with a '45' that clipped the inside of the post at the death, drilled his penalty home.

In the early stages, every turnover was cheered wildly, as was a shot dropped short from Trillick's attacking pivot Lee Brennan. However as the game took on a pattern, the champions displayed their status as they ran into a 1-4 to 0-3 half-time lead.

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Michael Hagan and Gary McKenna

Michael Hagan and Gary McKenna

�INPHO/Lorcan Doherty

Michael Hagan and Gary McKenna

After holding Dungannon scoreless prior to the water break, the challengers began to play their way in with two points from Patrick Molloy, while Dalaigh Jones added a superb effort cutting in from wide.

Trillick, however, had the cushion of a Lee Brennan goal, ghosting in with a give and go from Niall Donnelly before slotting to the net.

How, then, do you explain the third quarter?

Trillick had racked up 15 fouls to Dungannon's five in the first-half, but that wasn't sustainable as the Clarkes hit 1-4 to 0-1 in this period. The big play came with substitute Patrick Quinn installed on the edge of the square. A lovely ball in from Paul Donaghy was contested and, while Ruairi Kelly got his hand to it, Quinn scooped up the break and blasted to the net.

And yet back came Trillick in the final quarter to lead by two on the hour mark. Dungannon clawed it back heroically to force extra-time. Indeed, it may not have been needed if the final play had stuck and a Walsh ball into Quinn had been held to take a 'mark.'

Extra-time see-sawed all the way and then to penalties. Trillick clung on with their fingertips to reach that stage. What a way to end a year.

TRILLICK: Ryan Kelly; S O'Donnell, Ruairi Kelly, G McCarron 0-1; M Gallagher, D McDonnell, R Brennan; R Donnelly, L Gray 0-1; M Donnelly, N Donnelly, R Gray; J Garrity, L Brennan 1-7, 5f, 1x'45', S Garrity

Subs: D Gallagher for O'Donnell (30m), C Daly 0-2, for N Donnelly (38m), D Kelly for D McDonnell (46m), N Gormley 0-1, for S Garrity (51m), D McDonnell for M Gallagher (73m), D McQuaid for J Garrity (75m), G McKenna for Kelly (78m)

Penalties: N Gormley (2), L Brennan (2), R Donnelly (2), M Donnelly (1) D Gallagher (0)

DUNGANNON: D Martin; C Barker 902, 1x'45', 1f, D Walsh, C Devlin; D O'Hagan, S Molloy, M McKearney; R Jones, P McNulty; D Jones 0-1, O Mallon, M Walsh; L Mallon, P Molloy 0-2, 1f, P Donaghy 0-3, 2f

Subs: P Quinn 1-1, for L Molloy (38m), K Morgan 0-2, 1f, for Mallon (42m), K Barker for S Molloy (51m), C Corrigan for O'Hagan (58m), B McNulty for O Mallon (70m), L Mallon for R Jones (74m), C McKee for D Jones (77m)

Penalties: K Morgan (2), L Mallon (2), C McKee (1), P Donaghy (2), C Barker (1)

Referee: Shane Meehan (Galbally)

Belfast Telegraph