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O'Neill hoping to catch Harte's eye by helping St Enda's clear final hurdle

By John Campbell

Ronan O'Neill will have his sights on something more than a county championship medal when he lines out for Omagh St Enda's against Carrickmore in the Tyrone decider at Healy Park on Sunday.

The St Enda's sharpshooter is odds-on to finish top scorer in the competition and take delivery of the Patsy Forbes trophy for this exploit.

But even more significantly, O'Neill will be particularly keen to impress watching Tyrone manager Mickey Harte after failing to nail down a regular slot in the Red Hands line-up this year.

O'Neill currently has 3-11 to his credit in the championship, his three goals having come via a first-half hat-trick in a blistering performance that highlighted his team's quarter-final win over Eglish.

Ironically, the player who is closest to him in the scoring chart is Carrickmore veteran Martin Penrose, who has totted up 0-11 to date but is unlikely to overhaul the St Enda's whizzkid.

When O'Neill helped himself to two points in Tyrone's opening fixture of the year against Donegal in the McKenna Cup, he appeared to lay down a marker that this could prove a lucrative season for him.

But his form dipped and he failed to become a regular in the side. A cruciate ligament injury sustained in March 2012 had temporarily derailed his career although he came back last year but if his form at county level this term was not all that it might have been, then he has certainly been hitting the high spots with his club.

Indeed, he is one of several players who found themselves unable to secure regular places in the Tyrone side this year despite some enterprising displays when they did get the chance to sample action.

Niall McKenna, Kyle Coney, Shea McGuigan, Mark Donnelly, Peter Hughes, Connor McAliskey and P J Lavery are several others who played intermittently but they may get a fresh chance to show their paces at county level in 2015.

St Enda's will go into Sunday's decider fortified by a healthy scoring record and conscious that O'Neill in particular has the ability to rise to the occasion and enhance his already formidable scoring haul.

"The fact that Ronan has already gained experience in Tyrone's colours is a big help and he is one of several players in our team who have worn the county jersey," explains St Enda's communications committee representative Paddy Hunter.

"So this means he can help to set the tone for our display against Carrickmore, who are a very experienced championship team."

Tyrone boss Harte will certainly be taking stock of both sides as he focuses on constructing his 2015 panel.

"Obviously there are players in both teams who have been playing for the county for a while now so this will give an added dimension to the match," adds Hunter.

While O'Neill is very much on song in the St Enda's attack, the accurate Penrose is enjoying good support from Paul McAleer in the Carrickmore front line and this duo will form a hot handful for the St Enda's defence.

Harte, who is expected to formally confirm Peter Donnelly as his strength and conditioning coach and Gavin Devlin as assistant manager, is particularly anxious to see Tyrone make a strong bid for major honours next term.

Meanwhile, Tyrone legend Peter Canavan has guided Cavan Gaels into the semi-finals of the Cavan county championship.

A runaway 5-9 to 0-6 replay win over Lacken Celtic has helped to thrust the Gaels into pole position once again for the title.

They will meet a useful Cuchulainns side in the semi-final on Saturday night at Kingspan Breffni Park but Seanie Johnston, for so long the team's top scorer, may not start.

He was deployed as a substitute against Lacken and may find himself in the same role again.

However, county ace Martin Dunne is back from injury while Michael Lyng and Robert Maloney-Derham are other key players in the Gaels' line-up.

Cuchulainns will be looking to playmaker Conor Smith to pull the strings in their attacking strategy.

Belfast Telegraph


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