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Clarkes downed by Carrickmore

Dungannon…..0-07
Carrickmore….2-09

SCROOGE-like in their defensive meanness, Carrickmore under-21s refused to serve up any festive gifts to Dungannon in this pre-Christmas County Final on Saturday lunchtime, deservedly taking the Grade One title in the process.

In this season of good will, there was little sign of much bonhomie in the closing stages when an ugly brawl broke out between both sets of players underneath the main stand at Newtownstewart, but that unsavoury incident aside, both teams endeavoured to produce a fully committed and enjoyable decider.

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Displaying tactical shrewdness, Carmen sought to thunder wind assisted deliveries down the throats of their lively full-forward line from the off, a ploy which paid huge dividends in the first quarter.

Stephen Grogan and Ciaran Daly slotted over early points with some confidence to settle them to their task, and while McKee curled over a lovely effort at the other end, judging the wind to perfection, Dungannon were rocked back on their heels with the concession of a fifth minute goal.

It was a quality strike took, Carrickmore midfielder Paddy McCallan pulling the trigger after a barnstorming burst up the centre, to find the top corner of Tomas Hamilton’s net.

Dylan O’Hagan responded with a skilful conversion for Dungannon but after the lively Fullerton slotted over neatly with his left peg on the turn, Carmen struck for a second major just before the quarter hour mark.

Lorcan McBride’s attempt for a point dropped short, but under pressure the unfortunate keeper spilled possession and the grateful Fullerton swooped to stab the ball into the goal.

To their credit the Clarkes refused to let their heads drop and they methodically probed looking for attacking options even if all too often there was little in the way of end product.

Full-forward James Morgan did benefit from some industrious build-up play from Dalaigh Jones to belt over a score, before Ciaran Daly knocked over a free to keep Carmen firmly in the box seat.

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Dungannon kept chiseling away but for all their earnest endeavour they could only register one more score in the half, courtesy of a McKee free.

After a subdued spell in terms of attacking work, Carrickmore upped the gears again before the interval as corner forward Paddy McElduff slotted a delightful effort over from a narrow angle and then teed up Cormac Munroe to drill over right on the half-time whistle.

The creativity of the Carmen play gave way to a more pragmatic approach on the resumption as they faced into the elements but it soon became clear that the Clarkes would struggle to reel in the deficit.

Their prospects appeared even more remote when Ciaran Daly and Cormac Munroe capped some polished Carmen attacking sorties with accurate finishes as they stretched their lead out to ten points, 2-8 to 0-4.

Conor McKee did register another free, but the goal that Dungannon really craved to kickstart any sort of comeback never looked like materialising such was Carrickmore’s defensive cover and organisation.

They closest they came saw a ball drop invitingly for Oisin Cowan but he couldn’t poke home from close range and Carrickmore were able to scramble the danger clear.

Scores dried up as the action became increasingly scrappy and stop-start, but lack of any cohesion suited the Carmen boys down to the ground given the clear daylight on the scoreboard.

Fullerton tagged on a free to hand them further breathing room but just when it seemed the match was drifting towards its inevitable conclusion all hell broke loose.

When order was eventually restored referee Shane Meehan brandished straight red cards to Daniel Fullerton and an unused Carmen replacement, while soon after their second half sub Pauraic Fox was also sent off for a high tackle on Dalaigh Jones.

But even with the numerical advantage Dungannon lacked the strategy and belief to penetrate the Carrickmore rearguard during the latter stages, players repeatedly coughing up turnovers anytime they looked to make inroads.

Sean Cowan and Conor McKee did register consolation points but this particular Christmas present had long since been gift-wrapped in Carmen green, white and gold colours.

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