GAA Football

Kilcoo can bounce back from All-Ireland disappointment says Conleith Gilligan

Kilcoo's Eugene Branagan closes down Corofin forward Mike Farragher during Sunday's All-Ireland Club SFC final clash at Croke Park. Picture by Seamus Loughran
Neil Loughran

KILCOO assistant manager Conleith Gilligan has backed the Magpies to bounce back from the huge disappointment of Sunday’s All-Ireland Club SFC final defeat to Corofin.

The Down and Ulster champions went toe-to-toe with the all-conquering Galway kingpins at Croke Park, frustrating Corofin for large periods and forcing the game into extra-time thanks to Paul Devlin’s free right at the very end of added time.

However, Kevin O’Brien’s men completed their unprecedented three in-a-row of All-Ireland titles with a blistering six minute burst in the first period of extra-time, doubling their tally for the day by hitting Kilcoo for 1-4.

It was a devastating series of blows from which the Magpies wouldn’t recover but, with a host of emerging talent coming through the ranks to bolster an already youthful panel, Gilligan insists the future is bright.

He said: “It is a very young team, sprinkled with a bit of experience, and there’s a lot of young players biting to get in.

“From that perspective, it’s down to them to push on to the next level to get into the team and maybe push the older boys out. It’s entirely in their own hands, they’re a very talented underage group, they’ve a very bright future.

“But it gets harder, because everything you’ve done is signposted for everybody else and the competition always gets bigger and stronger and better, and improves as you’re improving.”

Gilligan was also quick to salute the never-say-die spirit of the Kilcoo players after they went down to 14 men early in the second half.

Corofin moved into a three point lead minutes after Dylan Ward was shown a second yellow card, and looked poised to run away with the game. Instead, though, the Magpies dug in and forced extra-time, Devlin putting the seal on the comeback.

“Look, you don’t know the result on any day, but you know two or three things with these Kilcoo players,” said the Ballinderry man, an All-Ireland winner with his own club 18 years ago.

“You know they’re going to give you a performance, they’re going to give you everything they have, and if it’s good enough, great. They show that all the time, and they did that today as well.

“It [the sending off] had a huge impact because obviously we had to change everything we were doing. We had to go to plan B, but look we work on those situations, the what ifs – what if we have a man extra, a man less…

“So while it made life more difficult, it was something we planned for. We were able to get into a position where we didn’t fundamentally change what we did, but it just meant the players had to expend so much more energy to get back into that position and then get out again. That was the difficult part.”

It was clear to see how devastated the Kilcoo players were at the end of an afternoon of high drama. And Gilligan says it is up to them to force themselves back into the frame for a return to the biggest stage again in future years.

He said: “You would love to think that but unfortunately that’s not the way it works. Some players get to play in one, some in none, and some of the Corofin players get to play in four or five. It’s down to the teams, it’s down to the individuals.

“There’s nothing guaranteed and just because you’re brilliant now, you have to push on to the next level. It’ll be the same for all those young boys, and they will because they have a great work ethic, a great attitude and great personality.

“They’re just so hungry to learn, they’re a pleasure to be around.”

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