By Niall Gartland
THE old adage goes that it’s always darkest before the dawn and Carrickmore are bidding to round off their season on a high note in Sunday’s Division One final against Trillick at O’Neill’s Healy Park.
Carrickmore produced an uncharacteristically timid performance in their first-round championship encounter against Edendork in late September, losing out on a scoreline of 0-14 to 1-4.
Local lads Mickey Gallagher, Ciaran McAleer and Paul Daly, all league and championship winners during their playing days, stepped into the breach following that defeat and, whisper it quietly, already there are signs of a Carmen renaissance as they chase down an eleventh ever Division One title.
They claimed an impressive victory over Dromore in the league semi-final last month and now they’re set to take on Trillick this Sunday, no easy undertaking but Gallagher says they’re delighted to have the opportunity to test themselves against the O’Neill Cup holders.
Gallagher said: “I watched on as a spectator during the year and we played well in patches but our form took a bit of a dip towards the end of the league campaign and we didn’t go into the championship in the best of form.
“I’m not saying the writing was on the wall but it was going to take a massive performance to turn things around and obviously it didn’t go well for the team against Edendork.
“But we were lucky to have the opportunity to right the wrongs of that performance with a league title to play for.
“We knew the quality of our players and they’ve worked their socks off for us, and it’s great to have the chance to put a bit of a gloss on the season.”
Carrickmore top the roll of honour list in the Tyrone Senior Championship with 15 titles to their name, but they can be just as proud of their record in the league, sitting atop the leaderboard with a record 10 titles.
Gallagher commented: “There’s only two titles up for grabs at this level every year and the mindset of our players is to go out and win everything you can, and that’s always been the case.
“Whenever we exited the championship, it was a matter of putting everything into the league. It may be the secondary competition but it takes 17 games to win a league so we’re by no means undermining it and we’re going to do everything in our power to take the title.”
Opponents Trillick will be fiercely determined to not only retain their Division One title but complete a remarkable league and championship double. It goes without saying that they’re a brilliant team and it’ll give Carrickmore some indication of where they stand in the overall pecking order.
Gallagher said: “You have to hand it to Trillick, the way they do business on and off the field is exceptional, and they carried themselves really well in Ulster as Tyrone champions, they’ve been great ambassadors.
“They’ve played a lot of different teams in recent months and they’ve always come out smelling of roses.
“We’re under no illusions as to what we’re up against but we’re not shying away from the challenge. Not only the panel and management, but the club in general want to see where exactly we are, this is a real acid test for us and we’ll know on 3pm this Sunday where exactly we stand.”