Friday 27 April 2018

Sludden has final word as Dromore weather second-half Clonoe storm

Dromore 1-8, Clonoe 2-4

Teenager Niall Sludden fired over a superb late winner to settle an absorbing final in Dromore's favour.

It was their third title in five seasons, and sweet revenge for defeat to the O'Rahilly's in the 2008 final. But Dromore almost let this one slip away as well, having lost a seven-point lead as Clonoe came storming back with two late goals.

They held their nerve, however, and squeezed through to next weekend's Ulster Club Championship opener against Derry kingpins Ballinderry.

There was drama inside the opening minute when referee Eamon McHugh had to go off with a knee injury and was replaced by linesman Eugene McConnell.

Dromore eased ahead with frees from skipper Eoin McCusker and Paddy Montague.

A Patrick Doris free gave Clonoe their only score of the opening 27 minutes, with Fabian O'Neill, Ryan McMenamin and Sean O'Neill cutting off their best attacking efforts. Midfielder Montague powered over the game's opening score from play in the 19th minute, and when McCusker collected Colm McCullagh's return pass to fire over a fine point, they led by 0-4 to 0-1.

Sean O'Neill found acres of space on the left to increase the margin to four, before the O'Rahilly's began to step up their intensity in the closing stages of the half.

Colm Donnelly finished off a neat move involving Emmet Teague, PJ Lavery and Shane Coney, and teenage substitute Daniel McNulty notched an excellent point.

Dromore went in with a 0-6 to 0-3 interval lead, and went further ahead when McMenamin pushed forward to split the posts.

And they struck for a goal in the 35th minute, a score that was to prove the catalyst for a pulsating second half.

McCullagh was dispossessed, but the ball ran loose to McCusker, who rifled his shot low past Mickey O'Neill. But Dromore were to score just one further point, pinned back for long stretches by a resurgent Clonoe side which chased down opponents with frenzied endeavour.

Stephen McNulty and Coney gave them a platform around the vital central area, and they swept forward with menace.

Ronan McNabb and Cathal McCarron stepped in to avert a couple of dangerous situations, but there was nothing they could do to prevent Clonoe from stunning their supporters with two goals.

At seven points ahead, Dromore had looked comfortable, but when centre-back Coney beat McCarron to a Doris delivery to shrug off two defenders and plant the ball in the net, the deficit was down to three.

And then minor starlet Daniel McNulty drilled home a brilliant second to level the game with 10 minutes to play.

As the rain intensified, the effort from both sides did likewise, but it was Dromore who were able to produce the killer punch, Sludden floating over an immaculate winner two minutes from the end.

SCORERS -- Dromore: E McCusker 1-2 (1f), P Montague 0-2 (1f), S O'Neill, K Donnelly, N Sludden, R McMenamin 0-1 each. Clonoe: D McNulty 1-1, S Coney 1-0, P Doris 0-2 (1f), C Donnelly 0-1.

Dromore -- P Ward; F O'Neill, C McCarron, K Donnelly; C O'Hara, R McMenamin, S O'Neill; H McNulty, P Montague; R McNabb, E McCusker, N Sludden; S McDonnell, E O'Neill, C McCullagh. Sub: C O'Neill for Donnelly.

Clonoe -- M O'Neill; D Burke, A Brady, D Coney; E Teague, S Coney, G Coney; S O'Hagan, S McNulty; C McAliskey, C Doris, C Donnelly; P Doris, RT O'Neill, PJ Lavery. Subs: D McNulty for RT O'Neill, D Hanna for D Coney, RR O'Neill for McAliskey, RT O'Neill for Lavery.

Ref -- E McHugh (Aghyaran) replaced by E McConnell (Clogher)

Irish Independent

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