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Omagh St Enda's spirit proves key


Closely run: Omagh ace Stephen Mullan and John Haran of St Eunan’s tussle for possession

Closely run: Omagh ace Stephen Mullan and John Haran of St Eunan’s tussle for possession

Lorcan Doherty

Closely run: Omagh ace Stephen Mullan and John Haran of St Eunan’s tussle for possession

The classic two-tone white and black colours of Omagh St Enda's will be flown for the first time ever in the Ulster club final on November 30 when they face the other victorious semi-finalists, Slaughtneil of Derry.

They survived another tight, nervy finish against a St Eunan's side who struck for home in the second half, smelling blood once the influential Joe McMahon was forced off the pitch with a dead leg on 42 minutes.

By the time he departed the stage, his side were in good shape, leading 1-6 to 0-5. But then Rory Kavanagh kicked into gear with a much-needed point from distance.

Cillian Morrison thought he had this third point of the evening in the next play, but referee Noel Mooney disallowed it.

Sean McVeigh clipped one over instantly and with Ronan O'Neill missing a chance from 15 yards and Conor Morrison finishing a patient move to leave one point in it with seven minutes remaining, it felt like Omagh were desperately hanging on until a two-point salvo from Conor McMahon.

Eight games in eight weeks for St Eunan's finally caught up with them. They might privately nurse resentment of being forced into such a schedule by their own county board's decision to postpone the domestic club Championship until after Donegal's involvement in the All-Ireland series.

Omagh will take this victory as more evidence of their resolve.

"It was a poor last 20 minutes from us," admitted their manager Laurence Strain.

"We didn't really cope well when we lost big Joe at midfield. We lost our shape, we didn't regroup properly but, again, we battled to the end."

St Eunan's manager Maxi Curran rued the loss, stating: "The scary part is that it's an awful long journey to get back here. This was a really good opportunity. You have to give Omagh credit, they were the better team."

Omagh have been delivering goals at crucial phases of games and here was no different. On 12 minutes, Aáron Grugan came up from his sweeper position to join an attack and threaded a lovely ball through to Cormac O'Neill, whose shot was impressively saved by goalkeeper Shaun Patton.

They survived another scare on 20 minutes when Connor O'Donnell and Stephen Mullan combined down the line for Mullan to fist across the face of an unguarded goal.

Four minutes later the dam broke. Justin McMahon won a break from an Omagh kickout and fed it to McAnulla. He laid off to Ronan O'Neill who arrowed a measured delivery into the chest of the rampaging Barry Tierney.

Tierney kept his patience and composure to get off a shot from around the penalty spot and although Patton got a strong hand to it, it wasn't enough. This established a three-point lead that was to come in handy.

At the other end, Omagh were caused no end of hassle by Morrison. In a previous life, he actually won the penalty for Jim McGuinness' under-21 team of 2010 when they came within that spurned penalty chance of beating Dublin in the All-Ireland final.

He hit the second and third points for St Eunan's before they switched initial marker Hugh Gallagher with Mullan.

However, as the half wore on his influence was less pronounced and by half-time, Omagh seemed to have the measure of this game, until McMahon's injury.

Without their standard-bearer, Omagh appeared vulnerable as St Eunan's committed a full-out offensive line with runners coming from deep as they narrowed it to a single point.

Conan Grugan grew into the game well though, combining with McMahon's replacement, 38-year-old Conor Starrs to put the younger McMahon - Conor - through to convert a point with seven minutes left on the clock.

The wing-back was on hand to kick another five minutes later after foraging from O'Donnell and O'Neill.

There came a final flurry of activity, with both sides losing a man, but with one of the final plays of the match, veteran John Haran floated a fisted pass into Morrison, who blazed wide.

Soon after, the final whistle blew and Omagh were once again joined on the field by their delirious support.

OMAGH: R Clarke; H Gallagher (C), Justin McMahon, S Mullan; C McLaughlin, B Tierney 1-0, C McMahon 0-3; Joseph McMahon, C Grugan; A Grugan, J McAnulla 0-1, C O'Neill; C O'Donnell 0-1, R O'Neill 0-3, C Meyler. Subs: C McCarron for Joe McMahon (42), C Starrs for C O'Neill (48), D Kerr for McLaughlin (57), J Colton for C McMahon (60). Yellow cards: Meyler (32), C Grugan (51 & 62), C O'Donnell (54). Red cards: C Grugan (62).

ST EUNAN'S: S Patton; C Parke, S Hensey, Conor Morrison; C Ward, E Doherty, D Mulgrew 0-1; K Rafferty, R Kavanagh 0-1 (C); C Gibbons 0-1, C Dunne 0-1, 1f, S McVeigh 0-1; R Carr 0-1 1f, J Haran, Cillian Morrison 0-2. Subs: M McGowan for Hensey (HT), M Miller for McGowan (52). Yellow cards: Cillian Morrison (22), Ward (34), Haran (41). Black cards: Ward (60). Red cards: Ward (60).

Referee: Noel Mooney (Cavan).

Attendance: 3,455.

Belfast Telegraph