Donal O'Hare at the double to help Burren end seven years of hurt
Morgan Fuels Down Senior Football Championship final: Eoghan Rua, Kilcoo 2-9 St Mary’s, Burren 2-12
NOBODY summed up the hunger and desire among the Burren ranks yesterday more than Donal O’Hare, and it was fitting that he bagged the two second half goals that ended their seven years of hurt at Pairc Esler yesterday.
The 26-year-old ran himself into the ground for the cause, hassling and harrying any man in a black jersey that came within his orbit, but it was the class in front of goal that has always been his trademark which ultimately won the day.
With Kilcoo narrowly ahead early in the second half, O’Hare converted a 34th minute penalty after Eamonn Toner was bundled over in the square to put Burren into the ascendancy.
It was his second goal, though, which proved a hammer blow to the Magpies’ hopes of moving out on their own in the Down history books as they went in search of a seventh consecutive county title in-a-row.
Substitute Shay McArdle was the catalyst, bursting to life nine minutes from time and rampaging through the Kilcoo defence before finding Paudie Poland in space.
Knowing O’Hare would be making the run off the shoulder, Poland instinctively laid the ball off and the Down forward didn’t waste a second before burying low into Niall Kane’s right corner.
Kilcoo showed the spirit of champions as they battled right until the last whistle, determined to hold onto the crown they have held since 2012. But yesterday it was their turn to feel the hurt they have inflicted on Burren three times in the past six years.
The St Mary’s were good value for it too in the end, with the industry and excellence of O’Hare but a cog in a well-oiled machine that had no intention of leaving Newry without the Frank O’Hare Cup.
Crucial too was the brilliant free-taking of goalkeeper Cathal Murdock, who nailed four long-range efforts into the sun in the first half. The effect was two-fold – topping up Burren’s tally on the scoreboard in the most nip and tuck of games, but also sending a message to the Magpies that any foul committed within 55 metres would likely be punished.
Following an edgy start, with both sides sloppy in possession, it was Kilcoo who made the first major breakthrough when they rattled Murdock’s net 13 minutes in.
It came when Martin Devlin found Miceal Rooney in acres of space. He was immediately confronted by Murdock and, just when it looked as though the chance had done, Rooney offloaded to Ceilum Doherty who lashed home through a cluster of Burren bodies.
Kilcoo were content to sit deep and break in numbers - the template that has delivered them so much success in recent times. And when they landed their second goal of the half, it looked as though the same old story might be unfolding.
This time it was Jerome Johnston with a classy finish, lashing in off the near post after being found in space by the energetic Eugene Branagan.
A minute later Paul Devlin split the posts to put the defending champions 2-3 to 0-5 ahead, but Burren’s heads didn’t drop.
Another monster free from Murdock was followed by three scores (two frees) from O’Hare as Paddy O’Rourke’s men went in level at the break.
And when O’Hare sent Kane the wrong way with a penalty four minutes into the second half, Burren scented blood. Ryan Johnston was sent on for Conor Laverty as Kilcoo boss Paul McIver changed things up.
However, when O’Hare burst onto Poland’s pass to lash home in the 51st minute, the momentum was firmly with the St Mary’s.
Liam Kerr cut a dash through the Magpies rearguard to make it 2-11 to 2-8 and when Ronan McGrath fired over in the fourth minute of the four allocated for added time, the Burren supporters could contain their excitement no longer.
When the final whistle sounded, the men in white and green sunk to their knees after a mammoth effort. For those who had come from Burren’s successful underage teams, it was business as usual.
But for those who remember what it was to win in 2011, and then have it denied them three times since, this was just about as good as it could ever get.
Kilcoo: N Kane; N Branagan, A Branagan, P Devlin; M Rooney (0-1), D Branagan, JJ McLoughlin; E Branagan, J McClean (0-1); J Johnston (1-0), M Morgan, C Doherty (1-0); C Laverty, M Devlin (0-1), P Devlin (0-5, 0-4 frees). Subs: R Johnston (0-1) for Laverty (39), R McEvoy for Morgan (39), F McGreevy for P Devlin (44), C Laverty for Rooney (59), G McEvoy for P Devlin (60+2)
Yellow cards: D Branagan (19), N Branagan (23), A Branagan (30+2), JJ McLoughlin (52),
Red cards: R Johnston (64)
Burren: C Murdock (0-4, frees); S Fegan, K McKernan, A McAvoy; D McEntee, C Cox, Conaill McGovern; D Rooney, R Treanor; C Foy (0-1), P Poland, R McGrath (0-1); L Kerr (0-1), E Toner, D O’Hare (2-5, 0-3 frees). Subs: S McArdle for McEntee (HT), C Toner for Treanor (42), S Murdock for Poland (53)
Black cards: E Toner (65, not replaced)
Yellow cards: D Rooney (29)
Referee: C Reynolds (Downpatrick)