Champions Kilcoo beat Clonduff after extra-time in Down football championship

Kilcoo's Conor Laverty and Paul Lively of Clonduff in action during the Down SFC round one clash at Pairc Esler
Sean Mahoney

CHAMPIONS Kilcoo were taken to extra-time by Clonduff – the team they beat easily in last year’s final  – on their first appearance in this year’s championship at Pairc Esler last night before edging through after extra time (0-14 to 1-10).

James McClean scored a last-gasp winner in the last minute of extra-time to secure a hard-fought win. 

The sides couldn’t be separated after the first 10 minutes of extra-time as Paul Devlin scored two frees for the Magpies and Aidan Carr and substitute James Killen replied but Clonduff’s Conor Og O’Hagan missed a glorious chance for goal.

In normal time, Clonduff’s livewire Rian Branagan opened the scoring in the first minute but Ryan Johnston, who initially lined out at full-forward, quickly replied and this set the tone for what was end-to-end yet laboured football.

Aaron Morgan’s left-footed effort edged Kilcoo ahead but only briefly as Conor Og O’Hagan replied and then Kilcoo’s Ceilum Doherty and Stephen McConville (free) had the sides level on 10 minutes.

Clonduff lost Liam McGreevy to a black card but undeterred the Yellas increased their lead with the evergreen Shane Ward tapping over. 

Darragh O’Hanlon’s converted free levelled the score for the fourth time but Kilcoo had keeper Steven Kane to thank when he pulled off a stunning point-blank save to deny Rian Branagan a certain goal.

Conor Laverty vision set up O’Hanlon to drill over and then the provider tagged on a point as Kilcoo finished strongly, but Clonduff’s tenacious defender and Down captain Darren O’Hagan raided forward and stroked over a point. 

Kilcoo then looked to have found the net when Darryl Branagan beat the ’keeper but Clonduff full-back Shea Murnin cleared off the line, with Paul Devlin converting the resultant 45’.

While referee Brendan Rice had to knock on Kilcoo’s door to return for the second period, Clonduff were raring to go and 37 minutes Conor Og O’Hagan displayed excellent agility as he rounded two defenders before squaring across to Conor Murray to palm into the net. Stephen McConville’s converted free then put the Yellas in front.

Felim McGreevy and Stephen McConville traded points but Clonduff could have been out of sight as first Darren O’Hagan blazed wide with only the ’keeper to beat and then young Rian Branagan flashed his shot wide from close range.

Kilcoo were expected to punish such misses but they subsequently kicked four wides in a row.

With five minutes to play the Magpies tried to engineer goal and Jerome Johnston made a great fetch  and shot at the back post but Clonduff ’keeper Paul Gribben pulled off an equally impressive save.

Devlin’s converted 45 narrowed the gap and then Laverty floated over a neat point to level the game.

In yesterday’s earlier game Castlewellan enjoyed a comfortable 1-17 to 1-8 win over Senior Championship newbies Bredagh, while on Saturday four first half goals helped RGU Downpatrick to a comprehensive 4-14 to 1-10 win over Kilkeel’s An Riocht.

Tony Havern delivered an injury-time winning point to ensure Ballyholland Harps victory (0-15 to 2-8) at the expense of Loughinisland in Newcastle on Saturday.

The Super Blues took an early lead with points from Stefan Mason and county panellist Johnny Flynn and they led the charge for 60 minutes.

But Stephen Poacher’s Ballyholland Harps showed that never-say-die quality one would expect from his side. They could have easily rolled over as Loughinisland bagged two goals, including John McCarthy’s first half strike, which gave the Blues a 1-3 to 0-2 lead with 15 minutes played.

Ballyholland stuck to their counter-attacking style but relied on Patrick Quinn’s sharp free-taking to keep them in the game. Harps’ heads could have dropped after the Blues’ second goal but Ronan Murtagh rolled back the years with a magnificent point to encourage the Ballyholland men.

Loughinisland led 2-5 to 0-7 at
half-time but Ballyholland went on the offensive with Havern, Murtagh, Quinn and young Tiernan Rush finding the target for Harps, although Declan Clements and Stefan Mason did reply with scores.

But it was Ballyholland’s grit and determination and an inspirational point from Havern that got them over the line, while Loughinsland, who only scored three points in the second half, will be furious they allowed this game to slip away.

The action continues in the Mourne county on Monday evening when much-fancied Burren take on Glenn in Hilltown at 8pm.

Morgan Fuels Senior Football Championship round one

Ballymartin 2-14 Saval 0-21

Longstone 1-9 Mayobridge 0-19

An Riocht 1-10 RGU Downpatrick 4-14;

Loughinisland 2-8 Ballyholland 0-15

Bredagh 1-8 Castlewellan 1-17

Kilcoo 0-14 Clonduff 1-10 (after extra time)

Burren v Glenn (Monday, Clonduff, 8pm)

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