Dromore 0-13 Derrygonnelly Harps 1-16
Derrygonnelly's vast experience of the provincial arena helped them survive against the odds and push on for a comfortable win in extra-time as they overcame Tyrone champions Dromore at Carrickmore.
Reduced to 14 men midway through the second half, the Fermanagh men refused to panic, and crafted a stoppage time equaliser through Conall Jones to send the tie to extra-time.
Jones was the key man with his long range place-kicking expertise producing the game’s most crucial scores, even though he finished the game on the bench after picking up a second booking.
Shane McGullion had the Erne champions ahead inside ten seconds, but it wasn’t to be the all-out attack that early flourish had suggested, as they dropped back with extra men in defence to frustrate their opponents.
But the instinctive understanding between Emmet McNabb and veteran attacker Eoin McCusker was the key to the unlocking of the Harps’ resistance.
McCusker pushed the Red Hand champions ahead in the fifth minute, and a couple of McNabb frees kept their noses in front, 0-4 to 0-3 ahead at the drinks break.
But the second quarter belonged to Derrygonnelly, who pushed forward, inspired by superb long range scores from skipper Ryan Jones and experienced centre back Declan Cassidy.
The loss of leading scorer McNabb to injury came as a heavy blow to the St Dympna’s, who struggled to find ways through a packed rearguard, although Ronan McNabb jnr did break through to bring a save from Jonathan McGurn.
A Conall Jones free sent the Fermanagh men in with a 0-7 to 0-4 interval lead, but once they got the wind in their backs, the Red Hand title-holders began to motor.
Peter Teague, freed from his full back role to press forward, won a free that he converted himself, and McCusker free brought the sides level in the 43rd minute.
Gary McKenna had just edged the Fermanagh men back in front when they lost Declan Cassidy to a second booking in the 47th minute, but they battled to hold on to their lead until the 59th minute, when Colm O’Neill levelled, before substitute Andrew McGrath pushed Dromore in front in stoppage time.
It was with the last kick of the game in the 65th minute that Conall Jones thumped over a 45 metre free, into the wind to make it 0-10 each and send the tie to extra-time.
The Harps powered through the first period, opening up a for points lead, thanks to the long range place-kicking of Conall Jones, but his game was cut short by a second yellow card just after the restart.
Dromore also finished the game with 14 men after Colm O’Neill picked up his second booking, but it was the Fermanagh men who answered the most searching questions in that final period, hunting down the Dromore attackers, and scoring on the break through Gavin McCarron to keep daylight between the teams.
And they applied the icing to the cake as Stephen McGullion punched home the only goal of the game in added time.
Dromore: M McGale; C O'Hara, P Teague (0-02, 1f), C O’Neill (0-01); P McHugh, R McCusker (0-01), N McCarron; O Rafferty, N Sludden; S McNabb, R McNabb snr, R McNabb jnr (0-02); E McNabb (0-03, 2f), T Sludden, E McCusker (0-02, 1f).
Subs: C Slevin for E McNabb (24), A McGrath (0-01) for T Sludden (39), C McCoy for Rafferty (41), C Goodwin (0-01) for McHugh (48), C MacRory for McCusker (59), T McCarron for Slevin (69)
Derrygonnelly: J McGurn; A Jones, T Daly, M Jones; O Smyth, D Cassidy (0-01), A McKenna; Stephen McGullion (1-00), R Jones (0-02); E McHugh, G Jones (0-01, f), L Jones, Shane McGullion (0-01), C Jones (0-06, 5f), G McKenna (0-04, 1f).
Subs: R McGovern for A McKenna (43), C Burns for L Jones (51), G McGovern (0-01) for G Jones (56), N Maguire (61), L Jones for Smyth (66), S Gilroy for Shane McGullion (74), G Jones for G McKenna (76)
Referee: M McNally (Dromore)