Naomh Conaill’s hopes of Ulster success ultimately ended in a n ightmare three minute period in the first half of yesterday’s Ulster Club Championship quarter final at Sean MacCumhaill Park.
NAOMH CONAILL 1-11
They’d already conceded an early goal when Anthony Thompson was shown a straight red card for what the referee appeared to indicate was a head-butt on an opponent with just 12 minutes played.
They’d hardly recovered from that setback when Dermot ‘Brick’ Molloy was forced off because of injury.
The former county man had kicked Naomh Conaill’s openinig score and had started the game well.
But his departure, coupled with the loss of Thompso n, was something that would cost the Donegal champions dearly.
Naomh Conaill trailed by six points at half time, 2-4 to 0-4, but threw caution to the wind after the break and the introduction of Dara Gallagher turned the game in their favour.
But while they did get back on level terms at one stage of the second half, they left themselves with just too much to do and Trillick held out for a narrow win.
The Tyrone side, playing in their first Ulster club tie in 29 years, had no end of quality and experience within their line-up.
Their big players - Mattie and Richard Donnelly, Rory Brennan - and Lee Brennan in attack, all produced impressive displays.
They got off to a dream start, their first goal coming after only two minutes when Niall Gormley fired to the net past Stephen McGrath after Lee Brennan’s free came back off the post.
The surprise Tyrone champions showed little sign of any nerves and points by Richard Donnelly and Gormley saw them lead 1-2 to 0-2.
By that stage, Naomh Conaill were playing with a man less, but they managed to keep in touch with frees from Brendan McDyer and John O’Malley.
However, Trillick always carried a threat coming forward and Mattie Donnelly and Brennan scored delightful points before Daire Gallagher finished off a wonderful move to score Trillick’s second goal just before the break.
Naomh Conaill’s Dara Gallagher, on at half time for AJ Gallagher, made an immediate impact, scoring a wonderful point within 15 seconds of the restart.
Another substitute, Johnny McLoone, added another point before Ciaran Thompson cracked home an unstoppable effort to close the gap to three points, 2-6 to 1-6.
Suddenly the momentum was with Naomh Conaill and points from McLoone and Gallagher again reduced the margin to just one.
Niall Gormley responded for Trillick but two quick-fire frees from Gallagher meant the sides were level, 1-10 to 2-7, going into the closing 13 minutes.
Trillick, roared on by a sizeable travelling support, enjoyed another good spell and two points within a minute from Brennan and Richard Donnelly, put them two up again.
Dara Gallagher scored a long range free to reduce the deficit to just the minimum.
There was still plenty of time for Naomh Conaill to find a score that would send the game to extra time. But some resolute defending from Trillick kept them out.
Gallagher did have a chance when presented with a free right at the end. However, with a kick that would surely have favoured a left-footed player like the long-departed Molloy or McDyer, Gallagher was unable to find his range and Naomh Conaill’s brave fightback just fell short.
Even though they outscored the winners by 1-7 to five points in the second half, Naomh Conaill were to be left disappointed and it’s Trillick who advance to a provincial semi final where they will meet Scotstown.
The Monaghan club won through to the last fou r after beating reigning Ulster champions, Slaughtneill.
naomh conaill: Stephen McGrath; Aaron Thompson, AJ Gallagher, Kevin McGettigan; Marty Boyle, Anthony Thompson, Eoin Waide; Ciaran Thompson (1-0), Leo McLoone; Ethan O’Donnell, Eunan Doherty, John O’Malley (0-1, free); Brendan McDyer (0-1 free), Dermot Molloy (0-1, free), Leon Thompson (0-1).
Subs: Cathal Ellis for D Molloy (15), Johnny McLoone (0-2) for O’Donnell (19); Dara Gallagher (0-5, 0-3f) for AJ Gallagher (half time); Seamus Corcoran for O’Malley (53); Ethan O’Donnell for McDyer (53), Brendan McDyer for Doherty (58).
trillick: Joe Maguire; Stephen O’Donnell, Ruairí Kelly, Damien Kelly; Niall Donnelly, Rory Brennan, Daniel McDonnell; Richard Donnelly (0-2), Eoin Gormley; Matthew Donnelly (0-1), Prionsias O’Kane, Sean Kelly; Niall Gormley (1-2), Lee Brennan (0-4, 0-2f), Daire Gallagher (1-0).
Subs: Shane Gormley for E Gormley (44), Fergal Donnelly for McDonnell (48).
FREES: Naomh Conaill 18 (9 in each half)
Trillick 13 (8 in second half)
wides: Naomh Conaill 6 (3 in each half)
Trillick 8 (5 in second half)
YELLOW CARDS: Naomh Conaill 2, Dara Gallagher, Leo McLoone,
Trillick 1, Daniel McDonnell
bLACK CARDS: None
rED CARDS: Anthony Thompson (Naomh Conaill)
rEFEREE: Noel Mooney (Cavan)
man of the match
For Naomh Conaill, there were good displays from substitute, Dara Gallagher, Leo McLoone and Marty Boyle.
Trillick captain, Mattie Donnelly showed great leadership over the hour and the winners were also well served by Niall Gormley and the excellent Lee Brennan in attack. But Richard Donnelly at midfield gets the man-of-the-match award for a power-packed display in which he hit two crucial points.