Kilcoo Ulster triumph shows what Down can achieve says Mourne skipper Darren O'Hagan
KILCOO'S triumph in the Ulster Club Championship was a shot in the arm for Down football says Mourne county skipper Darren O'Hagan.
Clonduff clubman O'Hagan has had many a battle with ‘the Magpies' over the year but he says he was right behind them last Sunday when they beat Donegal's Glenties to win Down's first Ulster title at senior level since Burren won the last of their five back in 1988. Bryansford are the only other club from the county to clinch Ulster club football's biggest prize.
“You take your hat off to them,” said O'Hagan.
“They're Ulster champions and rightly so, they were the far better team on the day and if they had won by five or six points it wouldn't have flattered them.
“I was very, very impressed by them and it has to be good for Down football. Down is back winning Ulster titles, I know it's at club level but it has to be a boost to show the Down players that there's nothing to be scared of out there and that if you put your mind to it you can get places.
“That's the attitude the Kilcoo players have had over the last 10 years, it took them 10 years to get that Ulster title but they never stopped until they got it.
“Yes, there might be a bit of rivalry (between Down's clubs) but you have to take your hat off to them and say congratulations.”
Kilcoo's starting line-up last Sunday included Jerome and Ryan Johnston and Paul Devlin, all of whom were involved with Down last year. Midfielder Aaron Morgan, Conor Lavery and Aidan Branagan are among the others who have worn the red and black jersey and O'Hagan says “the door is always open” for the likes of Eugene and Darryl Branagan.
“It would be massive to see them in the panel,” he said.
“It's not for the want of trying that they haven't been involved before. I've been involved with Jim McCorry, Eamonn Burns and now Paddy Tally and they have been approached but it didn't suit them.
“It's their choice whether they come in or not and I'm sure Paddy will leave the door open to them coming in because they'd be a massive help to Down football.
“It was good to see Jerome playing well and Ryan back to full health too because he struggled with injuries at the start of the year. It's good to see those boys flying again because that's always a plus for Down.”
Meanwhile, Down will be in Section B alongside Fermanagh and Antrim in the Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup. The section winners will face the winners of section C (Armagh, Tyrone and Cavan) in the semi-finals and O'Hagan says Down will aim to establish a winning habit in the competition they can carry into a Division Three campaign that begins with a trip to Tipperary.
“They aren't easy games,” said O'Hagan.
“I'm sure they're the same as ourselves, they're trying to blood new players and trying and get up to that level where they can hit the League running. It's important to get a good start to the League so the McKenna Cup is very useful for that.
“You can work out what team you're going to have for the first League game and get that winning habit. Winning is very easy carried, you can't beat it. Losing the two games in the McKenna Cup and then trying to lift ourselves to go to Tipperary… It wouldn't be easy.
“Winning is a habit and it's something that Down needs to get into. Plus we have Fermanagh in the Ulster Championship further down the line so it'll be a wee taster as well.”