By Niall Gartland
TRILLICK have arguably been the most consistent force in Tyrone championship football since claiming a sensational senior title in 2015, but assistant manager Liam Donnelly knows it would be foolish to look beyond Friday evening’s first-round clash against Galbally.
St Macartan’s recent record at this level speaks for itself – O’Neill Cup triumphs in 2015 and 2019 the obvious highlights, while they came agonisingly close to completing an elusive back-to-back in last year’s penalty shoot-out defeat to Dungannon Clarkes.
But redemption can wait as their main priority this week is navigating an opening round tie against Galbally for the second year running.
A handful of late Lee Brennan frees did the job when they met at the same juncture last season, and while Galbally have had a forgettable league campaign, Liam Donnelly isn’t expecting anything easy when the teams lock horns this Friday evening.
“Galbally are like any club with a few county players, when they’re missing and you add in a few injuries, it can be a struggle.
“But they’re a very resilient club. Last year we drew with them in the league, and when we played them in the championship, by God, lady luck shone on Trillick.
“We got a very fortuitious goal whereas we cleared a goal chance off the lad. Lee got a few points late on to get us over the line, but they’re a very well-organised, tenacious team. They’re a very good team and have been particularly impressive at underage level in years gone by.”
Trillick are impacted by starred fixtures more than most as they have four players on the county set-up – Lee and Rory Brennan and Liam’s sons Mattie and Richie. They’ve done well in the circumstances, and when they seemed to hit the rocks with successive defeats to Dromore and Coalisland in the league, they rebounded with a draw against Carrickmore and victory over Omagh.
Donnelly said: “We’re happy enough with the league. We were missing the county players but we knew that would be the case before we started.
“You pick up a few injuries as well, and that gave us a chance to look at our panel in depth. There were some very good games, some very good results, and some that didn’t go so well, but that’s the same with most clubs.”
Before this year, Trillick’s only All-Ireland SFC winner was Niall Gormley. Now they have four other players with Celtic Crosses in their back-pocket, and Donnelly says that means the world to a club like Trillick.
“It’s brilliant – any time an All-Ireland comes to a club, it’s unreal, and it’s a good boost to the fellas to for all the work they’ve put in. It’s the same with the likes of Petie Harte, they’ve all put in years of work and that was their just reward. The likes of ourselves, Pomeroy, Galbally, we’re all small clubs and we’re glad to see All-Ireland medals coming our way.”
Losing last year’s championship final on penalties to Dungannon was a major body blow, but Donnelly is philosophical about the way it all panned out.
“We were disappointed to lose on a penalty shoot-out but the rules were the same for Dungannon as they were for us. We’d have taken it if we’d won on penalties, and we defeated Killyclogher in the same scenario in the quarter-finals. It was the rules of the competition and that’s it.”