Skipper Darragh O'Hanlon sees Kilcoo home on an historic day for the Magpies
KILCOO skipper Darragh O'Hanlon stood tall when Burren gathered themselves for a final assault at the death in Sunday's Down senior championship final.
With the game in injury-time, full-back O'Hanlon rushed out to block a Donal O'Hare shot that was fizzing towards his goal and then emerged with the ball as Burren chipped the resulting ‘45' into the square.
Kilcoo deserved their two-point win, but they had to work until the final whistle to seal it and O'Hanlon's legs were cramping up as he reflected on six in-a-row for the Magpies.
“The last 10 minutes… everybody was putting their body on the line, I can hardly walk with cramp and there's a lot of boys like me,” he said.
“Burren came into the game with huge intensity and it took us the first 10 or 12 minutes to get to grips with it. I knew they were going to come at us because they're a wounded animal after us dominating for the last six years.
“At the end we put our bodies on the line and I'm just thankful we got out on the right side of it.”
Kilcoo's win equalled the county record of consecutive titles Burren had set between 1983 and 1988 and extended their championship haul to 16 – also a record.
“It's unbelievable,” said O'Hanlon.
“We won our first championship in 2009 after 70-odd years, now it's 2017 and we've six in-a-row in the bank. There's great work goes into our club – not just for the senior team, it goes right down through the underage.
“We're just reaping so much reward. Every night you go down to our field you can't even get parked in the carpark there's that many people down. There's a huge workrate there and we're reaping the rewards on the field.”
Kilcoo's victory on Sunday came a century after the club won their first county title in 1917. The Magpies beat Killyleagh back then and O'Hanlon referred on that win when he accepted the Frank O'Hare Cup.
“Gerry Kane, a very good clubman and a good friend, told me that and it stuck in my mind so it's a very historic day,” he explained.
“100 years since our first and then to match six in-a-row… It's unbelievable.
“It would be brilliant to beat it next year, but next year is a long, long way away and today we are just so glad to win that game. Fair play to Burren, it was a good hard-hitting game and it could have went either way, just our experience told and there were some great scores from Dylan Ward, Aaron Morgan and Paul Devlin.
“Dylan is an unbelievable talent, he's only 20 years of age and to do that in a county final… and he was marking Kevin McKernan… Everybody had a part to play, but Dylan was exceptional.”
With the Down title retained, Kilcoo can set their sights on the Ulster Club Championship and their first game – against Slaughtneil – is a repeat of last year's final.
“There were things said that our sights were on Ulster, but tomorrow morning our sights are on Ulster,” said O'Hanlon on Sunday.
“I'm sure Slaughtneil were watching on TV or they were in the stands and doing their homework.
“Last year we were very, very hurt to get beat in the Ulster final – we didn't do ourselves justice. We'll assess the situation and be ready in two weeks' time for another titanic battle.”