By Barry O’Donnell
TWO seasoned operators produced one of the most compelling personal duels in last Sunday’s Tyrone Senior Final.
Errigal Ciaran defender Ciaran Quinn (32) and Carrickmore attacker Martin Penrose (38) went at it hammer and tongs over the sixty plus minutes of action at O’Neill’s Healy Park, and at the finish up each could walk off the pitch with their head held high whatever the outcome.
Quinn no doubt enjoyed the ascendancy in the first half, his terrier instincts ensuring he won a series of balls aimed in their direction, but after the break it was Penrose who asserted his class on proceedings, tucking away a super goal into the bargain.
Ultimately the spoils were to go the way of Errigal as the O’Neill Cup made it’s way back to Gormley’s corner at the top of Ballygawley Main Street for the tenth time in parish history, and first since 2012.
Quinn was one of about a dozen members of the current Errigal squad who featured in that triumph over Dromore a decade ago, a match in which he also starred by holding St Dympna’s then ace marksman Colm McCullagh to just a single point.
He admitted that tracking the movement and threat of Penrose at the weekend was no easy task.
“They were always going to get their purple patch. We made a bit of a mistake in the second half, when we looked to play it across our goal-line and Marty stuck it away for them. He is as cute as a fox and has been a great player for a long time.
“You just had to watch him as best you could. Fair plar to him he kept his cool and put it away well. It was just a case of riding out the storm after that and looking to regroup and look to stick away a few scores up the other end then ourselves.”
Ciaran, like most of his Errigal colleagues, has twice suffered county final heartache in recent years on the big day in Omagh, but as disappointing as they were, he felt those painful memories helped to harden the side’s mentality coming into the current campaign.
“We lost a couple of finals in ’17 and ’19.
“Those two defeats hit us badly, down to the pit of the stomach. Thank god we just rectified that.
“Last year was tough to take too (semi-final, when they conceded three late goals). Coalisland are a dogged team. We took our eyes off the ball and switched off. So I would like to think that we also learned from that.
“It takes all those defeats and that heartache to get you over the winning line eventually. The hunger and determination in successful squads is built up from many things including setbacks.
“Obviously there iarea lot of people behind the scenes who played a major role as well.”
Quinn was only a late call-up to the Errigal starting fifteen last Sunday when the regular defender Aidan McCrory had to cry-off with his wife expecting. Ciaran said that he felt fairly relaxed when he was told that morning he was getting the nod to line out in the full-back line.
“I was a late replacement for Aidan McCrory. His wife went into labour last night. I was just called in late on so it was just great to get the nod. I was on standby. As long as the wee child is alright that is the main thing.
“It was a bit of a roller coaster for me. I got a call at half eight in the morning so I had to get the head right knowing I would be in from the start. I was probably more nervous beforehand when I was thinking I wasn’t starting. You sort of just get into the zone and focus when you know you are playing.”
While Errigal will have savoured this long overdue county title triumph and no doubt partied for a few days, Quinn states that they will quickly knuckle back down to things with Derry champions Glen next up in the Ulster Club Championship.
“We will recharge the batteries up and we will go again. We will enjoy a few nights and then see about Ulster after that. Glen are a big outfit, doing really well in Derry this last few years. Malachy O’Rourke knows all about Errigal Ciaran so we will have to keep a tight lip around the parish for a few days.”