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O’Neill hoping St Enda’s can make up for recent campaigns.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Omagh are chasing a second title in the space of four seasons in Sunday's Donnelly Vauxhall Tyrone SFC final at Healy Park.

This famous club has won the O'Neill Cup eight times, but had gone 26 years without a title prior to their 2014 triumph.

In a highly competitive Tyrone club scene, the St Enda's failed to maintain that level of success, and failed to get back to a final until this season.

And they have shown in their performances to date that they have the hunger and the talent to go all the way.

Their first round encounter with Ardboe was the first Tyrone SFC tie to be played outside the county, and after a terrific contest at Armagh's Athletic Grounds, the St Enda's emerged with a 1-16 to 1-11 victory, with Connor O'Donnell turning in a magnificent display at full forward, scoring seven points, while Conan Grugan weighed in with 1-3.

The second round saw them come up against a Greencastle side that had suffered relegation following a difficult league campaign, and a comfortable 1-16 to 0-7 passage was achieved with the help of a brilliant Barry Tierney goal and five points from O'Donnell.

In the semi-final, the 2014 winners came up against the 2015 champions, and after a gripping encounter, the St Enda's just edged out Trillick by 1-11 to 1-10.

They had to come from six points behind, showing terrific character to fight back with a Ronan O'Neill goal and winning point from a Joe McMahon '45.

Meanwhile, Errigal Ciaran got their challenge going with a comfortable first round victory over Urney, with Davy Harte and Peter Og McCartan hitting the goals in a 2-11 to 0-7 success.

Next up it was Carrickmore, and following a typically tough encounter, Errigal came out on top by 0-11 to 0-8, thanks to a storming second half performance, with Mark Kavanagh hitting four points.

In the semi-final, Errigal came up against giant-killers Pomeroy, and a late goal from corner back Niall Kelly helped them to a 1-11 to 0-10 success, with Peter Harte and Davy Harte scoring four points each.

Omagh attacker Ronan O'Neill is hoping the St Enda's can make up for two seasons of under-achievement, when they failed to build on the title triumph of 2014.

"The last two years, we under-performed. Every year you go out, you want to get to a final, but we came up against two tough draws in Dromore and Clonoe," he said.

"This year we just wanted to get out, play a bit of football and improve from last year, take it just one step at a time.

"We really focused on the Ardboe game, trying to get over that hurdle, and whatever happened after that we would take it in our stride.

"The Greencastle game came, we got over that, and we got through a huge battle with Trillick, coming from six points down to win by one.

"In the first half we probably should have been a lot further ahead than we actually were, looking back at the game.

"Then in the ten minutes after half-time, Trillick really kicked into gear, showed how god a team they were.

"Once they went six ahead, it really showed us, we need to start playing here, and Micheal (Gallagher) made a great run and found me. It was important to get the goal at that stage, because if we hadn't, I don't think we would have come back from it.

"It's massively important to get back to these days, in a county final, especially on your own pitch, your home county ground, where we have played numerous game, have played under-age football.

"It's great for the club, great for the community to be back in this position again." When Omagh and Errigal Ciaran met in the league, it was the Dunmoyle men who came out on top.

"It was a three point hammering. They were very good, from the first to the last whistle, and we couldn't close that gap.

They had runners from everywhere, and every time we stepped inside the '45, we weren't clinical enough.

"We had enough chances, but they were dispossessing us, they were counter-attacking us, it was one of those days where nothing went right for us and everything went right for Errigal. It showed how good a team they were." O'Neill believes Errigal must take heart from their league showing, with a top of the table finish easing them into the semi-final, which have yet to be played.

"I presume if you ask Errigal, they would say no, but Errigal's position in the league doesn't lie. They have only lost one game, and probably turned their season around from last year.

"They're probably going in as favourites, because they're sitting at the top of the table, and we finished sixth.

They have been to the well in the last two games. Carrickmore put them to the pin of their collar and so did Pomeroy, and they came out the right side of the results.

It showed the character of their team.

"But if we can play to the consistent level that we have been playing at, we would like to think that we can put up a performance against Errigal." Errigal have integrated some exciting young talent into their side, but they still have plenty of experience and star quality.

"They still have quality players. To me, Peter Harte is probably the best player in Ulster, if not top three in Ireland. He's one of the best players that I have played with. We'll obviously have to have our wits about us to go up against him.

"And they have mark Kavanagh playing the football of his life, young Niall Kelly there at the back playing very well, Ben McDonnell has played Tyrone U21s, and a lot of those boys have played for Tyrone at some point of their career.

"They're probably not getting the recognition that they deserve because they're being compared to great Errigal teams of the past, with Peter and Pascal and Hugh Quinn and Eoin Gormley and those boys." And O'Neill does not believe that Omagh will derive any undue benefit from the fact that the final will be played on their home pitch.

"So many teams do play their championship games here. It's nice to play here, because on its day it's probably one of the best pitches in the county.

"But I don't think it will have any bearing on what the outcome of the game will be. It's about who puts in the best performance on the day.

"Yes, we train on the pitch, and we know every blade of grass, but Errigal have played enough games on it too and they know what it's like as well, and their county boys have played county games on it." Back in 2014, Omagh pushed on from their Tyrone success, reaching the Ulster Club Championship final, where they lost by a single point to Slaughtneil.

It was a shattering outcome for the Tyrone champions, but O'Neill is grateful for the opportunity to return to the provincial stage and have another go.

"It's a game we left behind us, and look at what Slaughtneil have done since.

They have gone on and been a fantastic team for club football, for every team to look at and to strive to get towards.

"There's a lot of what-ifs and maybes.

It we had won that game, you never know where we could have been.

"But you have regrets in life, regrets in football, and that's probably one of them with this team.

"But all we're looking at is this game, and whatever challenge it brings after that, we'll look forward to that again. All we want to do is put in a performance that we know we're capable of on the fifteenth of October, and see where it takes us."

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