Scotstown pull off extra-time victory in epic Ulster semi-final against Trillick

Conor McCarthy scores vital stoppage-time point to save Monaghan champions in normal time

Ulster Club SFC semi-final: Scotstown (Monaghan) 0-17 Trillick (Tyrone) 1-13 (After extra time)

Scotstown’s leaders stood up at vital moments to help the Monaghan champions pull off an extra-time victory in this epic Ulster club SFC semi-final against Trillick at the Athletic Grounds.

Scotstown were seconds away from exiting the competition after Lee Brennan’s converted 45 had edged Trillick ahead in the third of three added minutes at the end of normal time.

However, Scotstown retained possession on the restart and worked the ball up the field where Conor McCarthy brilliantly timed an angled run and shouldered the responsibility of kicking an equalising point.


In extra-time, Kieran Hughes spun over a beautiful score from the outside of the boot, his brother Darren drove the team forward from midfield with surging runs, while Jack McCarron popped over two frees in extra-time and crucially won the last kickout of the game after Trillick had reduced the deficit to the minimum again.

The sides were level on eight occasions in a breathless, high tension contest that was up for grabs all the way to the very last play in extra-time.

“We have a phenomenal squad,” said Scotstown manager David McCague afterwards. “It’s a complete collective.”

They now face reigning champions Glen in the Ulster final in two weeks, with Scotstown trying to wrestle the provincial title back to the club for the first time since 1989.

Scotstown - with Kieran Hughes playing deep - were the better team in the opening 30 minutes of this semi-final, but Trillick stole the initiative just before the interval with the impressive Seán O’Donnell, nephew of Peter Canavan, scoring a quickfire 1-1 in first-half injury time to see the Tyrone champions lead 1-4 to 0-6 at the turnaround.

The rest of the game was an arm wrestle, the teams traded scores over and back, and never were there more than two points separating them. Richie Donnelly and Darren Hughes were like two rampaging bulls locking horns in the middle of the field while the imprint of Scotstown goalkeeper Rory Beggan on the outcome was significant.

Scotstown pushed up on all of Trillick’s kickouts, with Beggan positioning himself on the 65-metre line whenever his opposite number was preparing a restart. The high press made for a fascinating tactical battle with the squeeze leading to huge contests for possession.

“We want the ball,” added McCague. “When the ball is on the tee it is more up for grabs at that point than it is when it is an opponent’s hands.

“It’s an opportunity to go and get the ball and if it is in an opponent’s hands you still want it and you still want to put them under pressure and get the ball back. That’s just who we are.

“As a management team, that’s our philosophy on the game. Our fellas have trusted us with that. There is a fair degree of risk involved in it, but then when you have got competitors around the middle and leaders and brave men, sometimes the break can fall in your favour and you can get the ball back in your hand.

“The game is about scoring, and you can’t score without the ball.”

Scotstown’s tenacity was epitomised by McCarron’s will to track back and at times he was forcing turnovers inside his own 45-metre line.

However, for all their endeavour, Scotstown were seconds away from losing here but for McCarthy’s equalising score in the 64th minute to force extra-time, 0-13 to 1-10.

“It was a phenomenal bit of leadership, a phenomenal piece of skill,” added McCague. “A phenomenal show of character from Conor.

“He had been well marshalled, but he loves this club, he loves his team mates and loves doing magical things for them and he has been honoured with a national All-Star award there recently.

“But we will give him a wee All-Star of our own for dragging us to extra-time. Only for him, we wouldn’t be here.”

A pointed free by McCarron was the only score in the first half of extra-time to see Scotstown lead 0-15 to 1-11 at the break. A Brennan free brought Trillick back level on the restart before Scotstown opened a telling two-point gap thanks to frees by McCarron and Shane Carey.

Brennan fired back to leave just one between the teams again but when McCarron grabbed the resulting kickout, Scotstown had grabbed their ticket to a first Ulster club final since 2018.

“Glen are serial winners, they’ve proven that over the last few years,” said McCague.

“It’s a phenomenal competition, one of our players said to me during the week that it is the best competition in the world. We’re only a small province on an island in western Europe but we think it’s the best competition in the world and we love it.

“We are delighted to still be in it and want to now go and finish the job as Ulster club champions.”

Scotstown: Rory Beggan (0-1, one 45); Brendan Boylan, Ryan O’Toole (0-1), Damien McArdle; Conor McCarthy (0-1), Donal Morgan (0-1), Emmet Caulfield (0-1); Darren Hughes, Michael McCarville (0-1); James Hamill, Shane Carey (0-3, two frees), Mattie Maguire (0-2); Jason Carey, Jack McCarron (0-4, three frees), Kieran Hughes (0-2). Subs: Mark McPhillips for Hamill (50 mins); Darragh Murray for J Carey (53mins); Ross McKenna for Maguire (62 mins); Ryan Malley for Morgan (ft); Jason Carey for Malley (75 mins); James Hamill for Caulfield (81 mins); Mattie Maguire for McCarville (83 mins)

Trillick: Joe Maguire; Rory Brennan (0-1), Daire Gallagher, Peter McCaughey; Stephen O’Donnell, Daley Tunney, Ciarán Daly (0-1); Richie Donnelly (0-1), Liam Gray; Ryan Gray (0-1), Niall Donnelly, Daniel Donnelly (0-1); Lee Brennan (0-5, three frees, one 45), Seán O’Donnell (1-1), James Garrity (0-1). Subs: Colm Garrity (0-1) for N Donnelly (38 mins); Darragh McQuaid for Tunney (48 mins); Damian Kelly for Gallagher (77 mins); Paul Courtney for R Gray (82 mins)

Referee: Kevin Faloon (Armagh)

Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning is a sports journalist, specialising in Gaelic games, with The Irish Times