Coalisland 2-10 Moy 1-7
RELEGATION had been a simply unthinkable prospect and all involved with Coalisland can sit back and breathe a deep sigh of relief following Sunday’s thoroughly deserved Division One/ Two ACL play-off victory over the Moy.
Na Fianna boast a proud record in top-flight football stretching back uninterrupted to the mid-eighties, and you have to remind yourself of the calibre of their team when the consider the significance of yesterday’s game at Pomeroy.
Padraig Hampsey and Michael McKernan are two of the best defenders in the entire country, Niall Devlin captained last year’s Tyrone U-20 team to All-Ireland glory, they won an O’Neill Cup title as recently as 2018, reached the final again as recently as 2021, so these lads aren’t exactly lacking in pedigree.
Indeed, the mere thought of Coalisland playing in Division Two was a curious one but nothing in this life is guaranteed, and despite all their best efforts they found themselves in a do-or-die play-off clash against a Moy side bidding to make the big leap back into Division One at the first time of asking.
The Moy had been fairly road-tested over the course of the last month, reaching the Intermediate final where they fell short against Pomeroy, and it wasn’t hard to make a case for them potentially upsetting the odds against the Fianna. If Ryan Coleman and Michael Conroy cut loose – it wouldn’t be the first time – that would be half the battle, you could say.
But between one thing and another, Coalisland emerged triumphant with six points to spare on the scoreboard, ensuring that they’ll be back in Division One in 2024.
They’d taken the scenic route but they’d done it and can be happy with the way they went about their business yesterday.
It was a wet ‘aul blustery day and Na Fianna will have been happy enough to have opened up a 0-5 to 0-4 lead at half-time having played into an unforgiving breeze, and two second-half goals from Paddy McNeice and Tiarnan Quinn proved pivotal in the final reckoning.
The Moy battled hard with Sean Cavanagh making a positive impression when the player-manager sprung himself from the bench, but Michael McKernan, Padraig Hampsey and Niall Devlin were imperious at the back pretty much throughout and they kept the door sealed.
Others to play their part included the age-defying Stephen ‘Mackers’ McNally who said after the game that this is it, he’s “99.9 percent sure” he’s finally going to hang up the boots (what a true great of Tyrone Club Football, by the way), Sean Liam Corr, who nailed two monster frees in the second-half, and young Ruairi McHugh who won his fair share of ball in the middle.
One wondered before the ball was thrown-in whether Coalisland would suffer for only having played one competitive match since the start of October, that being a play-off clash against Moortown nearly a month ago.
But those notions were disabused as they enjoyed a blistering start to proceedings, opening up a 0-3 to no score lead in the opening six minutes of the game. Cormac O’Hagan blasted the ball over the bar to get the show on the road before converting a free when Padraig Hampsey was fouled by former Tyrone teammate Colm Cavanagh.
Peter Herron got his name on the scoresheet and the Moy already looked in trouble, but they started to make a few moves, spearheaded by attacker Ryan Coleman who drew a string of frees, two of which he converted himself, the other a beauty on the other flank from Michael Conroy.
It was all square midway through the first-half even though Coalisland were enjoying the lion’s share of possession. Unfortunately from their perspective, they weren’t really making hay with it in large part thanks to a dogged Moy defence that clogged up the central channel. Steve Donaghy was keeping twinkle-toed Tiarnan Quinn occupied but Ruairi McHugh did well to win a free when bottled up, and Sean Liam Corr nicked over his first of the day.
The Moy responded with a point from Adam Donaghy but the final ten minutes of the half were fairly claustrophobic with both defences showing up well.
Michael McKernan helped break the deadlock when he cut through and was subsequently fouled with Cormac O’Hagan doing the needful with the last kick of the half, a super effort giving they were playing into the breeze.
Coalisland led 0-5 to 0-4 at the interval but the Moy almost hit them for six in the opening seconds after the break when a flurry of handpasses set up Jamie Coleman, whose shot skirted just wide of the target. Michael Conroy subsequently scored a joyous point from play – it looked like it was going miles wide but he knew what he was doing and the ball curled in beautifully.
Na Fianna hit a purple patch with three points on the trot, two of which were mammoth efforts from the placed ball by Sean Liam Corr. They led 0-8 to 0-5 and the Moy looked to be in a spot of bother, but worse was to come from their perspective when veteran forward Paddy McNeice slipped through a goal with their defence caught napping at the back. From the restart Tiarnan Quinn landed a point, and with just over ten minutes remaining, the game looked as good as over.
The Moy weren’t ready to throw in the towel over, and Colm Cavanagh scrambled home a goal after Diarmuid McKeown’s initial shot was parried.
That was followed by a point from Jamie Coleman and newly introduced sub Sean Cavanagh was making a positive impact, helping to stitch together the play and not doing anything rash.
But they had become a bit stretched at the back and Coalisland took full advantage when Tiarnan Quinn made no mistake to open up a 2-9 to 1-6 lead with less than five minutes remaining.
The Moy kept on plugging away and some last-ditch defending from the hugely impressive Padraig Hampsey, whose tackling was so clean and crisp throughout, and Michael McKernan ensured there would be no late suckerpunches. Coalisland had the final say with a late score from Bailey Leonard deep into injury time and that was that, Coalisland had salvaged their Division One status and deservedly so.
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