Ulster Club Senior Football Championship quarter-final
Derrygonnelly (Fermanagh) v Trillick (Tyrone)
Sunday, Brewster Park, 2.30pm
BY NIALL MCCOY
TRILLICK captain Stephen O’Donnell has said that any talk of Ulster success has been non-existent with all eyes firmly focussed on Derrygonnelly ahead of Sunday’s much-anticipated clash at Brewster Park.
There is plenty of interest in the quarter-final tie given the Tyrone side’s close proximity to the Fermanagh border, and O’Donnell has been keeping an eye on events in the Erne county over the years.
“There hasn’t been too much of difference compared to our last Ulster run in 2015, we have a couple of boys in and a couple of boys out, but it’s the same buzz,” said the Reds’ captain.
“Playing championship at this time of year is always going to bring plenty of excitement to training, and to the parish too.
“It’s a great opportunity to try and progress that wee bit further but the only ambition we have at the moment is to try and get past Derrygonnelly.”
This will actually be the third meeting between the teams this year following two previous challenge match encounters, but the stakes are immeasurably higher this time around.
“This is the fifth year in-a-row that they have been here and they are a very prominent side,” O’Donnell said of this weekend’s opponents.
“They have reached two Ulster semi-finals in that time so they have established themselves in this competition.
“They’ll be wanting to push on and take the next step so it will be no easy task. The Joneses, the Cassidys, they are a deadly, deadly side.
“They have plenty of county men and a very good management team, so they are a very strong outfit.”
It may not be on the side’s radar just yet, but Trillick’s eventual aim will to be improve their county’s dismal recent record in the competition.
Omagh, in 2014, were the last Tyrone side to reach the provincial final while it’s 17 years since a Red Hand club actually lifted the Seamus Mc- Ferran Cup with Errigal Ciaran triumphing in 2002.
The excuse is often put forward that teams are out of juice after coming through one of the most competitive championships in the country, but O’Donnell doesn’t sense any fatigue amongst Nigel Seaney’s squad.
“We’re all feeling 100 percent and if you weren’t feeling great for a game at this time of year then there’d be something wrong.
“Everybody is flying, there is a realty, really good buzz around training.
“We have had the same men in managing us for the last four or five years now and there is great continuity there.
“The whole parish has been involved with the fund-raising and the likes of that, so everything seems to be in a very good place at the minute.”
Only for a boardroom decision some 86 years ago, these sides would have likely been meeting year in, year out.
Back in 1933, the Ulster Council rejected a claim of jurisdiction from Fermanagh over the club and instead ruled that Tyrone had that right.
Such tidbits add extra subplots to Sunday’s clash but Trillick coach Conor Daly has played down any talk of it being a derby fixture.
“Some of our guys have been taught in St Michael’s so that brings it a bit more to it,” he said.
“Kilskeery is a unique parish with Trillick and Coa in it with the two different clubs there. Most Sundays I go to mass in Coa at 9.30am.
“It’s not a derby though against Derrygonnelly, it’s just two teams that know each other very well.
“Both sides seem to be involved in very entertaining games so everyone is looking forward to it.”
This will be Trillick’s second jaunt into the provincial arena in five seasons, and they will be hoping to build on a promising first trip.
Their first Ulster Club tie in 29 years saw them defeat Naomh Conaill 2-9 to 1-11 with Niall Gormley and Daire Gallagher grabbing their goals.
That set up a semi-final meeting with an experienced Scotstown outfit and although they again hit two goals, Gormley and Daniel McDonnell on target, they lost out by two points.
“I wouldn’t say it feels any different, it’s just as exciting,” Daly said of the build-up this time around.
“Any time that you’re training at Hallowe’en for knock-out football it is fantastic.
“That 2015 season, it had been a long time since Trillick had won the championship and the novelty factor was about, maybe a giddiness.
“They had a good run, they went down and beat a very good Donegal team in Ballybofey and then they were very unlucky against Scotstown.
“We’re really looking forward to it again this year, we’re on a great run of form and we beat some serious teams in Tyrone.”
It has been somewhat surprising that Trillick have had to wait so long for their second run in Ulster, but they made amends this season after navigating a path fraught with the danger of Dromore, Clonoe, Coalisland and Errigal Ciaran.
Daly has sounded a warning to the rest of the county though, and he doesn’t expect as long of a wait until their next title.
“It’s a very young team and there is even more to come,” he said.
“It’s the nature of transition, boys get older and boys move on and stop playing.
“A number of guys are coming into their last few years but we have some great young lads coming through.
“The two Grays have come in (Ryan and Liam). Ryan came on that day against Scotstown in 2015 if I remember correctly. Wee James Garrity has been buzzing about.
“These are very easy guys to work with and they are always trying to better themselves.”