No intimidation factor as Kilcoo prepare for All-Ireland semi-final against Dublin champions Ballyboden
THERE will be no “intimidation factor” when Ulster champions Kilcoo take on Dublin's Leinster titlists Ballyboden St Enda's in Saturday's All-Ireland semi-final, says Magpies' assistant-manager Conleith Gilligan.
First-time Ulster winners Kilcoo break new ground in the Kingspan Breffni clash against a Ballyboden side that won the All-Ireland in 2016 and hail from a county that now has a vice-like grip on the Sam Maguire. But Gilligan, assistant to Mickey Moran at the county Down club, says Kilcoo's relative lack of experience at national level has given his players a sharp focus going into the game.
“There's no intimidation factor,” he said.
“For Ballyboden to get out of Dublin is massive and when teams come out of Dublin they always tend to be in the mix for the All-Ireland and a lot of their players have already been there and won one. So that is a big advantage in terms of their preparation.
“But there's no intimidation element; we know what we have to do, we know where we're strong and where we have to improve and we're just planning towards that.
“Experience is always a factor but Kilcoo is a very experienced team. This is something new and different and there is a huge amount of excitement and there is an advantage in that because we are just playing this game, there is no looking beyond it, this game is uncharted territory.
“This challenge is our only focus and that is an advantage in itself.”
The Ballyboden attack is spearheaded by scores from the potent Basquel brothers, Colm and Ryan. In the Dublin final win over Thomas Davis and the three games in the Leinster Championship that have followed it, the Basquels scored 2-26 (Colm 2-12, Ryan 0-14) out of their side's total of 4-48. That's over half and when you add in Ross McGarry's eight points over those four games, the attacking trio are responsible for 40 out of the Dublin champions' aggregate of 60 points.
The task for the Kilcoo defence seems to boil down to keeping Colm, Ryan and Ross (in that order) quiet on Saturday but Gilligan sees many other threats in the south Dublin outfit.
“They are a very, very formidable side,” he said.
“And with (Darren) O'Reilly, Michael Darragh MacCauley and especially Aran Waters coming back they are actually in a much better place than they had been because their injuries have cleared up. “But the two Basquels have been exceptional all the way through, their scoring has been phenomenal and defensively they have the likes of Robbie McDaid who is in the Dublin panel now and that shows how highly he is rated and how big a season he has had.
“We are under no illusions. We know that when we're playing Ballyboden, a team that have won an All-Ireland, that we'll have to be at our very best as we would for any semi-final at this level. You'll never win it playing poorly and this is what we've planned for and prepared for.”
Emerging trio Shealan Johnston, Justin Clarke and Anthony Morgan didn't start the Ulster minor semi-final loss to Donegal's Termon last week but all three will be available for Saturday.
“The minors have been out a fair bit and we've watched them carefully and nursed them back in but we have nothing new or fresh injury-wise,” said Gilligan.
“Shealan and Anthony Morgan both had a bad 'flu, it was difficult for them but this week we have a clean bill of health.”
Kilcoo captured the first Ulster title in their history with a win over Donegal's Naomh Conaill that that was much more convincing than the final of 2-11 to 2-9 suggests. With that trophy finally in the bag, them refocussed on their first All-Ireland campaign.
“We were back out on the Wednesday night and everything just moved on from there, it was back to normal,” said Gilligan.
“We've been doing the same things – training has been the same… We've just tried to keep it as consistent as possible and to be fair to the boys they have put in a big shift and it isn't always easy for them because there are obviously a lot of commitments for players around this time of the year.
“They have been very good, we couldn't have asked for much more from them.”