Down SFC: Clonduff out to scupper Kilcoo's drive for five
Morgan Fuels Down Senior Football Championship final: Owen Roe’s, Kilcoo v Clonduff Shamrocks (tomorrow, Pairc Esler, 4.15pm)
EXPECT goals in tomorrow’s Down SFC final between five-in-a-row chasing Kilcoo and neighbours Clonduff.
Both teams have bought into the theory that goals win games thus far in this year’s championship and both managers Kilcoo’s Paul McIver and Clonduff’s Ross Carr have embraced a style of play where attack is the best form of defence.
Kilcoo are already the most successful club in Down with 14 senior championships, one more than Burren.
Clonduff, on the other hand, haven’t featured in a championship final since 2010 and won the title since 2000. Back then present manager Ross Carr was finishing his illustrious playing career and getting his hands on the Frank O’Hare Cup was a fitting way to hang up the boots.
Now, as manager, Carr has found the balance of bringing in an abundance of young talent following the U21 success at the end of last season and getting the best out of the more seasoned campaigners – none moreso than son Aidan.
Carr has been one of the best midfielders in this year’s senior championship. Comfortable in the air, strong in the tackle and composed in the heat of the battle, Carr is playing without shackles and has been Clonduff’s driving force this season.
But that has been Ross Carr’s mantra – to play without shackles. Darren O’Hagan and Ruairi Lively are strict man-markers, but they are also encouraged to attack. Up-front, Barry O’Hagan is an exciting attacker but he can be found clearing his own goal-line if needed too.
However, Kilcoo will have their homework done and McIver will feel he has the defenders to handle Clonduff’s Barry and Conor Og O’Hagan, Stephen McConville and Rian Brannigan, who has scored three goals in his last two championship games.
The Branagan clan of Darryl, Niall, Aiden, Eugene and Aaron are top drawer defenders and who wins the individual battles will dictate much of the outcome of the game.
Kilcoo’s Johnston brothers Jerome and Ryan, Paul Devlin and Darragh O’Hanlon are young but experienced campaigners.
This season as also seen the emergence of Kilcoo’s Martin Devlin, Ceilum Doherty and Aaron Morgan. And we have yet to see the best of young prospect Cillian Laverty, whose older brother Conor.
Kilcoo boss McIver is a shrewd manager. He likes to switch the pattern of play by introducing two or three substitutes at the same time and is quick to act if a player isn’t performing up to scratch.
Kilcoo’s run to the final includes an all too easy 4-16 to 0-6 win over Saval, a 1-7 to 2-10 defeat against Burren, a comfortable 0-18 to 0-6 win over Loughinisland, a harder fought 2-13 to 0-10 win against Warrenpoint and an intense 4-7 to 2-8 semi-final victory over Burren.
Clonduff were unbeaten in their run to the final, with two late goals giving them an impressive 3-10 to 1-7 win over Ballyholland, while the 2-17 to 1-13 victory against rivals Mayobridge signalled the end of Frank Dawson’s management with the Sky Blues.
Rian Brannigan’s brace helped them to a 2-10 to 0-14 win against Castlewellan, while the same player rattled the net in the semi-final 1-13 to 3-04 win against Bryansford.
Kilcoo are undoubted favourites, but Clonduff are the last team knock the Magpies out of the Championship (in 2011) and the local rivalry rules out any sense of fear factor, which gives the ‘Yellas’ more of a chance than most think.
Clonduff genuinely possess the potential to provide an upset but Kilcoo harness too much craft, ingenuity and hunger to let this one slip away.