Kilcoo see off Burren to set new record a century after their first Down championship title
Down Senior Football Championship final: Kilcoo 0-13 Burren 0-11
A HUNDRED years after their first Down championship, Kilcoo extended their total to 16 and equaled Burren’s record of six in-a-row with a streetwise win in yesterday’s feisty Mourne decider.
The final margin was just two points but Burren, who led at the interval, never looked likely winners after ‘the Magpies’ had taken the lead midway through the second half.
Kilcoo’s experience, bench strength, composure, defensive tenacity and the finishing of new kid on the block Dylan Ward (0-4 from play) combined to see them home and, although Burren fought to the final whistle, the writing was on the wall for them after experienced defender Conaill McGovern was sent off for a deplorable swing at Paul Devlin.
The St Mary’s side had come tearing out of the traps, but their energy levels dipped after a bright start and five first half wides with the wind (always a factor at Pairc Esler) at their backs was a luxury they could not afford.
Kilcoo inevitably reeled them in and dictated the pace in the second half. Full-back Darragh O’Hanlon stood tall in the latter stages as they kept Burren at bay to emerge as worthy winners. Afterwards Burren manager Paddy O’Rourke reflected on the scores that got away when his side was in command.
“We should have made life more difficult for them,” said the former Down and Armagh manager.
“We were three up but I believe we should have been six or seven up and didn't do it.
“That kept them in the game, they're very experienced and they don't do panic.”
O’Rourke was one of the Burren invincibles who chalked up six in-a-row between 1983 and 1988. During that run his side found ways to win games they might have lost and O’Rourke sees the same neversaydie mentality in Kilcoo.
“They don't do panic,” he said.
“They're used to winning and they've been in these positions so many times.
“Our fellas haven't been because they haven't got over the line and maybe a bit of panic creeps in in the second half. For some reason, I don't know why, we basically turned the ball over to them.”
O’Rourke and assistant manager Stevie McDonnell would have been delighted with their side’s start. Donal O’Hare split the Kilcoo posts 15 seconds into the game and added a free after referee Paul Faloon spotted an off-the-ball foul on him by Aaron Branagan.
Then Mark McKay – who had a superb first half at midfield – grabbed a mark from the resulting kick-out and O’Hare clipped over another free to send Burren three up after Shay McArdle was fouled.
Aaron Branagan was booked for another off-the-ball indiscretion and Kilcoo reacted by switching Niall Branagan onto O’Hare, but Burren continued to create chances.
They didn’t take them though. Ryan Treanor and O’Hare both fired wide before Ward exploited space to swing over Kilcoo’s opener on 10 minutes.
Paul Devlin added a free before Burren moved clear again through Treanor and as Kilcoo dug in, Burren matched them in a fierce battle.
Cathal Foy put his body on the line to win a ball he had no right to but Ryan Johnston matched his bravery to block Connor Toner’s shot out for ‘45’ which goalkeeper Cathal Murdock swung over to put Burren three up again.
The St Mary’s outfit were in control, but their early exertions seemed to take a toll. The attacking élan faded as they retreated into their own half and laboured in possession without forward options as Kilcoo snapped at their heels.
Momentum swung to the Magpie runners and Darragh O’Hanlon blasted a penalty over bar after Ceilum Dohery had been taken down before a Devlin free and a point from evergreen Conor Laverty had Kilcoo level.
Burren found a second wind and points from sweeper Kevin McKernan and O’Hare edged them ahead before Laverty’s break earned another free for Devlin who left just a point in it at the break.
Burren hadn’t touched the ball in the second half when Jerome Johnston stroked over the equalizer and Ward, 22 years-old but playing like a veteran, put the Magpies ahead for the first time with a calm finish.
O’Hare equalized but Burren’s passing lacked the accuracy required to navigate a way through the Kilcoo defence and the Magpies thrived on turnovers.
Ward added a third, Jerome Johnston a second and Aaron Morgan his first (again after a stray Burren pass) to put his side 0-11 to 0-9 ahead.
O’Hare pulled one back, but Ward cancelled it out and Kilcoo used their midfield supremacy to control the tempo of the game. The tireless Laverty provided the outlet ball into the corners, Devlin found him again and again, support runners rushed to join him, keep possession, work shooting opportunities and frustrate the life out of Burren who sensed the game was slipping away.
Connor Toner fouled Devlin in desperation and the Kilcoo playmaker stroked the free before he was felled by McGovern’s right hook. Devlin was black-carded himself minutes later and Burren gathered themselves for a late assault on the Kilcoo posts.
O’Hanlon blocked O’Hare’s goalbound shot, then Shay McArdle punched over to leave two in it but Kilcoo held on for the win they deserved.
Their place in Down football folklore is assured, next up are Derry champions Slaughtneil and the start of their Ulster championship campaign.
Burren: C Murdock (0-2, 0-1 45, 0-1 free); J McGovern, G McGovern, S Fegan; D Rooney, C Cox, C Foy; M McKay, C Toner; R Treanor (0-1), D O’Hare (0-5, 0-3 frees), S McArdle; Conaill McGovern, K McKernan (0-1), D McEntee
Subs: Sean Murdock for Treanor (41), Ciaran McGovern for Jaimie McGovern (41), D McCartan for McKay (53), P Poland for McEntee (53), E Toner for C Toner (58)
Yellow cards: J McGovern (32), Ciaran McGovern (60)
Red card: Conaill McGovern (58)
Kilcoo: S Kane; N Branagan, D O’Hanlon (0-1 penalty), D Ward (0-4); Aaron Branagan, Aidan Branagan, Darryl Branagan; F McGreevy, A Morgan (0-1); R Johnston, P Devlin (0-4 frees), C Laverty (0-1); J Johnston (0-2), C Doherty, M Devlin
Subs: E Branagan for R Johnston (38), J McClean for M Devlin (39), JJ McLaughlin for Aidan Branagan (50)
Black cards: McClean replaced by D Kane (54), D Branagan replaced by S O’Hanlon (59), P Devlin
Yellow cards: Aaron Branagan (7), Aidan Branagan (30), Eugene Branagan (50)
Referee: P Faloon (Drumgath)