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It should be a heck of a day at Healy

They started with a bang (probably too much of a bang to be honest) on the Friday night of September 14th and have been run in parallel with each other over a breathless one month period ever since.

Now after twenty-eight explosive, entertaining contests we are down to the final four and all set for a double bill of action on Tyrone football’s blue riband day as Healy Park stages the 2018 Senior and Intermediate Championship Finals this Sunday afternoon

Since it began with that Stewartstown/Strabane schemozzle on opening night in Omagh five weeks ago, the Tyrone SFC and IFC competitions have rarely been out of the headlines.

Unfortunately much of it has been of the negative front page variety with the fall-out from that infamous clash only just starting to germinate when we had ‘that Cavanagh incident’ the next day in the Moy vs Edendork tie.

Amid the mayhem however there has also been dollops of on-field excitement and quality, upsets and intrigue (which regrettably don’t tend to go viral on social media).

Favourites have come and favourites have gone and surviving the carnage we have undoubtedly a quartet of finalists fully deserving of their moment in the spotlight.

The big one, the O’Neill Cup, showdown, throws up a repeat of the 2016 Senior showdown. A classic east vs west confrontation, Coalisland will go hunting for their tenth County title at the expense of a Killyclogher side in pursuit of their third.

It’s a rematch of the 2016 decider which went to a replay after a pulsating drawn encounter, before the brilliant Ballinamullan boys blew the ‘dark blues’ out of the water in the replay, romping to a fourteen point triumph.

Both these teams have struggled for consistency in the league this term, as evident in their respective mid-table berths in Division One, but come the autumn Championship cauldron they have proven themselves an altogether different beast.

The Fianna, now back under the stewardship of club legend Damian O’Hagan, were underdogs going in against both Dromore and Errigal Ciaran only to come on strong in the closing stages to take the verdict.

Typical of the precarious nature of the Tyrone Championship they were actually given their sternest challenge by rank outsiders Edendork in the semi-final before edging home by a point.

As for Killyclogher, managed by Dominic Corrigan, they opened in imperious fashion by swatting aside Derrylaughan, and then ended the reign of champions Omagh with a convincing derby triumph.

However on a dog-day afternoon they owed a huge debt of gratitude to Conall McCann for a late goal to push their semi-final versus Ardboe into extra-time where they eventually prevailed by three points.

Given what we have witnessed so far, not even the most bullish footballing sage could forecast with any real degree of confidence the destiny of the O’Neill Cup come tea-time on Sunday.

The same uncertainty also hangs over the Intermediate curtain-raiser between Augher and Tattyreagh, with the Paddy Cullen Cup up for grabs.

St Macartan’s reigned supreme as the overriding force in the County at a brief period in the eighties, twice annexing the Senior crown, and while they subsequently fell on leaner times, they have recently re-acquainted themsleves with the top flight.Victory on Sunday would represent another significant milestone on their re-emergence as a leading club and under Eamonn Kavanagh’s watch they have dealt comfortably with the challenges of Loughmacrory, Owen Roes and Stewartstown enroute to the final. They will be wary though of the terrific Tatts, who have suffered just one Championship loss in the county dating back to 2015.

After two successive appearances in the Junior Final (and victory last term) they have taken to Intermediate football like a duck to water and sealed the scalps of Urney, Dungannon and Gortin to now sit on the cusp of further unprecedented Championship glory. One way or another it should be a heck of an afternoon at Healy Park.

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