We knew we'd come good says Kilcoo's shot-stopper Kane
DOWN shot-stopper Stephen Kane admitted that the opening Championship day defeat to Burren acted as the catalyst to drive Kilcoo on to win their fourth Down SFC title in-a-row.
Last Sunday’s final win over Castlewellan came as little surprise and Kane agreed with captain Conor Laverty, who said the Magpies weren’t given enough respect and that they had something to prove.
“Even from the start of year, maybe when lads were away with the Down squad, or when we weren’t doing so well in the league, we had to listen to a lot of chat that hunger wasn’t there and we knew that come championship time we would produce and thankfully we have done that,” said Kane.
Kilcoo had to taste defeat after extra-time in the opening weekend of the championship, when Burren trailed for almost the entire game before first forcing extra-time and then sneaking the winner. Kilcoo’s pride was hurt but they found the perfect response.
“It was a massive step up against Burren but that was the kick up the arse that we needed,” said Kane.
“I felt were the better team in the first day out but that brought us on because we knew the level we needed to step up to – because Burren set the marker that day.”
However, Kilcoo eased through the qualifier route before facing mouth-watering battles against Burren again and having gained revenge over the St Mary’s side they then turned over a quietly confident Mayobridge before beating Castlewellan in Sunday’s final to win the Frank O’Hare Cup.
Kane believes that the tough route to the final worked in Kilcoo’s favour: “I think that helped us,” he said.
“Although a lot of people had Castlewellan as big underdogs any time we have played them they have made it difficult for us, it is a local derby. But I think that the tougher side of the draw coming into the final gave us better preparation and I am glad we were able to drive on.
“We came and knew that we were going to be in a titanic battle and Castlewellan definitely gave us that. Our key scores, the goals, came at the right times and we went in at half-time ahead, something which we haven’t done this season, we have always been behind. But we really showed good character to go four or five points up at half time and that gave us good footing to drive on in the second half.”
Kane was full of praise for his manager Paul McIver, who guided Kilcoo to county title in his first season in charge.
“Paul has done an excellent job since he has come in and he is a real player’s player,” said Kane.
“He left no stone unturned to make sure we were in the best of shape coming into the final and his homework is top class – the way he had us set-up today and much of the credit has to go to the management team and the backroom team for helping to get us this far.”
McIver has Kilcoo playing quick, attacking football with much more long accurate kick-passing than they produced under former boss Jim McCorry. While that steely, robust manner remains a key factor in the Kilcoo artillery, pace of moving possession is paramount in the equation.
“We knew that if we got the ball to our key men then we could do damage so we just wanted to move the ball as quickly as possible and thankful that worked out for us,” said Kane.
“Although we have plenty to work but at least we have that chance as we prepare for Ulster. We will have to assess and we will get back together and assess where we went wrong and where we can improve and push on for our next day out against Kingscourt.”