Kilcoo's Aaron Branagan: 'I looked at Mickey Moran and I just thought: ‘I know this man is going to bring us over the line.'
ONE glance at Mickey Moran banished any nerves Aaron Branagan had that Kilcoo might have blown a golden opportunity to clinch their first Ulster title.
In the dying embers of the first half of a superb provincial decider, the Magpies conceded two goals – both as a result of route one high balls into their square – to opponents Glenties which suddenly cut what looked like a match-winning lead down to a single point.
That would have tested the mettle of most teams but Kilcoo never lost belief and experienced centre half-back Branagan dedicated the victory to Moran’s calming presence during the interval.
“We trained hard, we’ve been training hard for 10 years for this and you just kept thinking: ‘Is it going to come? Is it going to come?’ But I said to our ones at home: ‘There’s just something about Mickey, he brings you that luck factor’.
“He consistently does the thing fair and with that comes the luck factor. At half-time I looked at him and I just thought: ‘I know this man is going to bring us over the line’.
“He was ultra-confident at half-time and he brings that through to all of us. I just can’t say enough about Mickey, honestly he is the best captain of the ship you could ever imagine and I have to hold Mickey responsible for this.”
Donegal champions Glenties went into the game as slight favourites but after an even opening 10 minutes, Kilcoo seized control of the game and were seven points up before the double salvo just before the break gave their opponents a lifeline in the second half.
The key to Kilcoo’s success were the goals scored by Aaron’s brothers Aidan (in the first half) and outstanding Darryl, in the second. The Magpies cleverly used Naomh Conaill’s defensive strength against them.
“We knew they hadn’t conceded a goal in five games so we said if we could get one we would maybe break their spirit a wee bit,” Aaron explained.
“Then we got two goals and we thought: ‘Surely they’re bound to know we’re the real deal here?’ We finished it out even though Dylan Ward tried to lob their goalkeeper from 40 yards!
“He was brilliant, everybody was absolutely brilliant. We have done a lot of hard training and we knew that it was going to lead us to this day. We’re ecstatic.”
One of five brothers in the starting line-up, Aaron highlighted the familial bond that binds this Kilcoo panel, and the entire club, together. The players all went to the same primary school and have been brought closer together over years of campaigning that saw them set a six in-a-row record in the Down championship and reach Ulster finals in 2012 and 2016.
“We all went to the same primary school together – every one of us – so we are all like brothers,” he said.
“In the team today was us five and then the three Johnstons (Jerome, Ryan and Shealan) are first cousins. Nobody is any different from anybody else and it’s absolutely brilliant to play with all these boys.”