GAA Football

Downpatrick stand in the way of Kilcoo

By Sean Mahoney

Morgan Fuels Down SFC semi-final: Kilcoo v Downpatrick (Saturday, Pairc Esler, 5.15pm)

KILCOO are on course for their sixth Down senior club title in-a-row but first they must overcome RGU Downpatrick in Saturday's second semi-final in Pairc Esler.

However, selector Paddy Murray insists that winning silverware hasn't even been discussed within the Magpies squad as they are still haunted by their shock

semi-final defeat to rivals Clonduff in 2011.

It may seem surprising that a team that has ruled the Down championship and challenged for Ulster titles in recent seasons can still be hurt by a defeat which happened six years ago, but Murray is convinced it continues to motivate his team.

“People pay to come into stands and are entitled to their opinions but within this squad our mind-set is completely on the next game,” said Murray.

“I remember the last day that we took our eye off the ball against Clonduff, all those years ago in the semi-final and we paid the ultimate price for that.

“That still is a driving motivating factor for these boys. We don't look too far ahead as we don't want a repeat scenario, because that defeat still hurts and will drive these boys on.

“Because it should never have happened, but it did and while we have a panel of players that are able to play football and compete for the senior championship, we are not going to let that happen again.”

Downpatrick go into battle as massive underdogs and indeed the Magpies privately heaved a sigh of relief when RGU defeated Ballyholland Harps in their quarter-final replay.

But, managed by Conor Deegan, Downpatrick won't be fazed by the prospect of winning a county final for the first time since 1993.

The Turley brothers and county men – Peter and Damien – are pivotal players for RGU with big Pete orchestrating from midfield and Damien playing the running game.

Players such as Conor McGrady, Sean Bell and Johnnie Bell have shown a glimpse of their potential, but when RGU play the off-the-shoulder, support football, they can inflict damage, as goals against CPN and Ballyholland proved.

But Kilcoo are a different proposition to what they have played so far this season. The Magpies killed Bryansford off in the opening quarter of the quarter-final and will try and do the same today.

Jerome Johnston is razor sharp in front of the posts, while Conor Laverty and Celium Doherty give them multiple options in attack. They are the masters of sweeping support play, but crucially with the killer touch.

Darryl Branagan and Darragh O'Hanlon remain key figures but their bench is also strong with Patrick Devlin, Aidan Fulcher and Cillian Laverty all quality footballers.

Anything other than a comfortable Kilcoo win will be a surprise.

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