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Weather Failed To Spoil What Was a Memorable Final.
Difficult conditions, referee injured less than a minute into the game, Dromore looked comfortable after their goal, great fightback by Clonoe to level it, chances missed to take the lead by the O’Rahillys, excellent winning score by Niall Sludden, superb ball retention by Dromore in final two minutes to ensure the Power NI sponsored O’Neill Cup was won.
These were just a few of the highlights from what was a compelling game of championship football in Healy Park on Sunday. The doubts that surfaced about the pitch on Saturday were cast aside as both teams fought tooth and nail for every single ball for over an hour. Dromore certainly dominated the opening exchanges and key men Eoin Mc Cusker and Colm Mc Cullagh were proving to be unmarkable as their pace and movement caused all sorts of problems for the Clonoe defence.
The men from the East looked down and out after Mc Cusker plundered his side’s goal early in the second half but the spirit of Clonoe shone through as they knuckled down and sought about retrieving the game. Young Daniel Mc Nulty was central to their come back and he gave Cathal Mc Carron a torrid time during the second half.
As conditions became increasingly slippery and players tired mistakes began to happen and all three second half goals came as a result of defensive blunders. It looked likely that the game would finish in a draw although Clonoe created, and failed to convert, two great chances late in the game to take the lead. Had they gone ahead at that stage they could well have broken Dromore’s resistance and their name would have been on the cup. Instead Dromore rallied and second half sub Conor O’Neill found Niall Sludden in space. The former county minor was coolness personified as he struck the ball over the bar for what was the winning score.
It was not a high scoring nor a free flowing game but it was a truly memorable final and one that will be remembered for quite a while. Both teams gave their all and although there were one or two borderline challenges the game itself was a very sporting contest between two very fit and well drilled teams. Stand by referee Eugene Mc Connell had a fairly decent game and judging by the reactions of the crowds and the players to his decision making, he did not get too many wrong.
Commiserations to Clonoe on their great efforts this year as they now turn their attention to the league semi final. As for Dromore they are worthy and deserved county champions and after a night or two of celebrations they will prepare for next weekend’s Ulster Club clash against Derry Champions Ballinderry.