Both Carrickmore and Omagh showed a couple of changes from the previous week with it appearing on paper at least that Omagh had strengthened their hand much more than Carrickmore had. The return of Justin Mc Mahon and Stevie Mullan from suspension gave Paddy Crozier the sort of selection headache that most managers love. Carrickmore on the other hand dropped Paul and Caolan Daly in an attempt to deal with the threat posed by Joe Mc Mahon and Dean O’Neill.
Last week’s game was very close with little between the sides throughout and we were expecting something similar this time again. However it was obvious even early in the game that the changes Carrickmore had made were not working as Dean O’Neill and Conor O’Donnell exploited a lack of pace in the Carmen half forward line. Their probing runs and support play had Carrickmore chasing shadows for most of the first half as Omagh built up a healthy and deserved four point lead by half time. The gap between the two sides was growing and half time came at just the right time for Carrickmore and their supporters. O’Donnell in particular was superb in the first half and his first point was a fantastic score from beyond forty five metres after a mazy run from deep inside his own defence. The one area of concern for Omagh however was that Ronan O’Neill was not being allowed to have the same impact as he had last time out. The nippy corner forward was being closely watched and with his influence restricted none of the remaining Omagh forwards looked capable of leading the line.
The general consensus was that Carrickmore were struggling in all the key areas but nobody was prepared to write their chances off just yet. One thing we have learned over the years from watching the men in green and gold is that they just do not know when they are beaten and in spite of being outplayed in most areas of the pitch, a four point gap was not insurmountable.
The second half took a while to get going but from early on it was obvious that Carrickmore had upped the intensity of their game. The stats will show that Omagh managed to score only one point in thirty plus minutes of football and that score came from a wing half back. That damning statistic is one that Paddy Crozier and his management team will reflect ruefully on over the next few months.
Omagh’s over reliance on young O’Neill came back to haunt them as Pearse Cunningham produced an excellent second half display to mark the Omagh corner forward out of the game. Carrickmore’s tackling was much more intense as they set about eating into the Omagh lead and while the scoreboard operator was not troubled much, it appeared that St. Endas seemed unsure about pushing on for the win. They were hesitant in possession and too slow in getting the ball into the forwards. Carrickmore seemed to sense the game was there for the winning and with Conor Gormley and Colm Mc Gurk leading by example they began to exert control. The gap was narrowing and with less than five minutes remaining it was down to a point as Omagh led eight points to seven in an almost mirror image of the previous week. When Carrickmore drew the game level after scoring their eighth point of the day with less than three minutes left it was a real case of who scores next wins.
Omagh looked bereft of ideas and leadership while Carrickmore’s growing confidence was evident in every player. Conor Gormley, who had a magnificent second half,continued to drive his team forward and played a key role in the winning score. Driving through the centre of the Omagh defence with time almost up he had the presence of mind and wherewithal to spot Kevin Mc Nally free on his left. The Carrickmore midfielder offloaded to the diminutive corner forward who split the posts with an excellent finish.
Carrickmore led for the first time and if truth be told not too many of their supporters could quite believe what they were seeing. A place in the county final was only seconds away and what had looked highly unlikely at the break was now within touching distance. Once again Carmen showed all their experience and guile as they prevented Omagh from setting up a game saving scoring chance to qualify for next weekend’s final against Coalisland.
In the end Carrickmore deserved their win because they refused to accept defeat and showed considerable grit and tenacity to overturn what looked like a match winning half time lead for Omagh. As for St Enda’s they will reflect and wonder just how this game got away from them. Like last year they were in a fantastic position to win the game but seemed to lack the nous and will to do do. They will now turn their focus to the league semi finals and will be hoping that, unlike in 2009, they will have a trophy to show for their endeavours this year.
Adrian Clarke’s team can now look forward to their date with destiny next Sunday. They have enjoyed two tight games with Omagh which are ideal preparation for such an important match. Some may feel that Carrickmore will not have much time to recover from the strains and stresses of the last two weeks but ask any players how they would prefer to ready themselves for the final and they would much rather be playing football than training.
Their opponents meanwhile have been left kicking their heels for a number of weeks and will be only too well aware that Carrickmore will be coming into this game in better physical shape for it than them. Nevertheless Coalisland will lack nothing in terms of confidence as they are in the final on merit having beaten favourites Errigal Ciaran, their close neighbours and great rivals Clonoe, and Kildress along the way.