GAA Football

Kilcoo march into fifth straight Down final

Burren’s Conor Toner tries to get past Kilcoo’s Aaron Branagan during last night’s Morgan Fuels Down Senior Football Championship semi-final at Pairc Esler
Picture by Louis McNally
Andy Watters

Morgan Fuels Down Senior Football Championship semi-final: Burren 2-8 Kilcoo 4-7

THE familiar ‘UTM, UTM’ (up the Magpies) chant resounded around the packed stand at Pairc Esler as Kilcoo progressed to a fifth straight Down final last night. 

Penalties in both halves from Darragh O’Hanlon were enough to kill off Burren in a bruising encounter that included cards of every colour and some entertaining football in difficult conditions.  

Confusion in the Burren defence led to a foul on Conor Laverty in the first minute and Darragh O’Hanlon kicked an easy free to open the scoring.

Burren responded in emphatic style, forcing the Kilcoo defence into a foul and goalkeeper Cathal Murdock trotted forward to try his luck from beyond the ‘45’. His effort fell well short but the ball wasn’t cleared and the alert Shay McArdle pounced and cracked a right-foot drive past Niall Kane – who was preferred to his brother Steven in the Kilcoo goal. 

Sean Murdock added two points (one a free from the sideline) to leave Burren 1-2 to 0-1 ahead after eight minutes. 

Kane had to save well, from McArdle again, as Burren threatened a second goal but the game quickly swung back the defending champions’ way as Eugene Branagan and Paul Devlin scored points either side of a black card for Burren’s Eamon Toner.

Another O’Hanlon free followed and Jamie McGovern’s off-the-ball foul on Laverty gave Kilcoo another threatening position deep inside the Burren half. Laverty spotted Ceilum Doherty in space and the youngster lobbed the advancing Cathal Murdock with a superb finish that left Kilcoo 1-4 to 1-2 ahead.

Sean Murdock replied with a free but Kilcoo surged further ahead when Laverty lost his marker McGovern again and collected Darryl Branagan’s pass and raced for the Burren posts. McGovern bundled him over and the referee immediately awarded a penalty.

McGovern trudged off (sent off for two yellows) as O’Hanlon smashed the penalty past Murdock. Four down and a man down, Burren looked in real trouble but the game swung again, this time their way, seconds later when Darryl Branagan was shown a straight red for an alleged strike with his elbow.

Shay McArdle’s excellent finish reduced the deficit but Burren sent three frees wide as an action-packed half drew to a close. They went in 2-4 to 1-4 behind, but it could have been worse. 

Ryan Johnston – just on the field as a sub – raced clear of his marker Conaill McGovern and bore down on the Burren goal. He went around Murdock and smashed in a shot – but McGovern had got back onto the line and cleared to keep the St Mary’s ship afloat for the second half.

A Darragh O’Hanlon free was the first score of the second period too but it was quickly cancelled out as Conaill McGovern and Sean Murdock got Burren back to within two points. 

Once again Kilcoo kicked on by exploiting the space left in the Burren defence. Martin Devlin raced through and was bundled over as he got his shot away. Murdock saved and Johnston buried the rebound but referee Trainor had signalled ‘penalty’ and O’Hanlon stepped up to score his second of the game.

Donal O’Hare replied with a free but Jerome Johnston (like brother Ryan back after shoulder surgery) marked his return with a point to restore Kilcoo’s five-point cushion.

O’Hare free kept Burren in touch but Niall Branagan’s interception as Kevin McKernan illustrated the greater urgency in the Kilcoo ranks. The Magpies swept up the field and Jerome Johnston settled the game with his side’s fourth goal. He added point and Ryan Treanor’s penalty proved scant consolation for Burren. 

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