Kilcoo playmaker Paul Devlin knows he has to make the most of glory days for 'the Magpies'
THREE times in around three minutes, Paul Devlin noted how the glory years that this Kilcoo side are enjoying won’t last forever.
Just before he made his way up the steps at Pairc Esler to join his team-mates and celebrate a record-equalling six in-a-row in Down, Devlin referred to the need for the Mourne champions to make the most of these halcyon days.
The experienced playmaker and deadeye free-taker registered four points as Kilcoo equalled Burren’s record for consecutive titles. Kilcoo’s status as Down’s best is beyond question but they haven’t translated that into success outside their county borders yet.
Back in the 1908s, Burren made hay when the sun shone on them; kicking on to win five Ulster titles and two All-Irelands. Meanwhile, Kilcoo have reigned supreme in Down since 2012 but lost provincial deciders against Crossmaglen and, last year, against Slaughtneil, their opponents in Sunday’s Ulster Senior Club Championship preliminary round showdown in Newry.
“You can see what this means to the community,” said Devlin.
“This is our sixth in-a-row and they’re still coming out and supporting us in their hundreds. This is not going to happen forever and you to take it while it’s there and make the most of it. We’re a special group of players here together and everybody is buying into it.
“You have to give it to the backroom team as well – Paul McIver (manager) and all the boys. They just keep producing the goods.”
As he spoke, veteran forward Conor Laverty walked past on the way to the stand. “Yeooooo,” he roared, giving Devlin a good-natured, celebratory poke in the ribs. Between them, they make this Kilcoo side tick.
“When I have the ball, before you even look up, you know he’s going to be showing for you,” said Devlin.
“Whenever Laverty is showing you know everybody has to step up. He can’t do it forever and whenever he’s doing it you have to appreciate it. I can’t do it forever either.”
On Sunday, Kilcoo get the chance to avenge last year’s final loss. Derry’s Slaughtneil won 0-12 to 0-9 that day and went on to reach the All-Ireland final.
“There is a big game ahead of us against the reigning Ulster champions and we’ll look forward to it,” said Devlin.
“Last year is motivation for us because we didn’t do ourselves justice, we didn’t perform on the day.
“Everybody in Ulster who was watching will know that we didn’t perform that day. Not too many teams get a chance to redeem themselves, particularly after a year, but we have the opportunity and we’re going to grasp it.
Kilcoo trailed at the break against Burren in the Down final, but dominated the second half to clinch a fully-deserved two-point win.
“We live for days like this,” said Devlin afterwards.
“You play football in your back garden wishing someone was watching and there today we had a full house – two teams really going at it.
“History takes no part in it, we look at it and say: ‘We’ll make our own history and let everyone else talk about other people. Every game is a hurdle and we want to get over it.”
Kilcoo go into Sunday’s game in Newry having been well tested and they will need to match the resilience they showed against Burren to get past a Robert Emmet’s side chasing their third Ulster title in four seasons.
“We ground out the result,” said Devlin of the win over Burren.
“In the first half there was a slight breeze and Burren really went at us well. It was probably the first real test we had so far, and that’s no disrespect to the rest of the teams in Down. We knew Burren would come at us and they did but at half-time we got ourselves together and said ‘there’s another half of football in us’."