Kilcar are into Ulster Club 'bonus territory' against Slaughtneil says Michael Hegarty
SLAUGHTNEIL beware – a relaxed Kilcar are a dangerous proposition. The Towney Bay club shipped some heavy criticism for the manner of their low-scoring Donegal county final victory but their veteran player Michael Hegarty insists they're operating under no pressure in Ulster.
Kilcar showed that in some style on Sunday by going to Clones and hammering three-in-a-row Monaghan champs Scotstown by 10 points, scoring 1-16 in the process.
The 38-year-old Hegarty has been trying to win his county senior crown since 1996 and they finally cleared that hurdle by edging out Naomh Conaill, Glenties by 0-7 to 0-4 in a dogged decider.
"Our goal was to try to win the [Donegal] championship this year, we've been trying to do that the last couple of years, and just to win that was big pressure off us," said Hegarty.
"That was the one we wanted to win and now we're in bonus territory. We came up [to Clones] nice and relaxed. We knew that we had to play well at this level and things went well for us, we got the breaks, and you need that."
Hegarty was pleased to prove that Kilcar weren't totally to blame for that dour Donegal final, and that they often do play entertaining football:
"That's right, we knew that, and this performance has put that to bed. Listen, you have to alter your style against different teams. We showed that we can play good, open football too, but it doesn't be like that every day.
"We came to Clones, it's the heart of Ulster football, a new experience for us and the boys all played well, so it's a good day for the club."
Given that it was Kilcar's first involvement in the Ulster Club since 1993, a shaky start was understandable, and they conceded a fourth minute goal converted brilliantly by Conor McCarthy.
Yet once they found their feet, especially the left one of skipper Paddy McBrearty, Kilcar dominated and cruised to a comfortable victory.
"We came up here and we knew we were up against a very good Scotstown team," commented Hegarty. "We were up against it there in the first half, there was nothing in it, they started very well.
"But we settled and, I suppose, we've a young team and it's a big experience for us all to play in Ulster. We're just delighted that we got over the line."
They did much more than that, thanks largely to the skill and speed of their current crop of county players, successors to Hegarty himself, notably skipper McBrearty, who notched 0-8, goalscorer Eoin McHugh, and his cousins Ryan (0-5) and Mark.
"When we need a score they can get a score, they're superb footballers. We have a few other boys who never take a step back.
"Listen, we're building all the time, it's a new experience, and we're just enjoying it at the moment."
Hegarty is already looking forward to meeting reigning Ulster Club SFC champs Slaughtneil in the semi-finals, and especially their manager, whom he holds in the highest regard:
"They're a superb outfit, they've been there or thereabouts for the past four years, coached by the superb Mickey Moran.
"I had the privilege of playing under him back in 2002 [for Donegal] – a great man and a great coach. They go out to play football. They come from a small area, like ourselves – we'll enjoy it.
"He's just a super man, he has a great way with the players. He just loves to play football, it's his life and soul. You just know the way those Slaughtneil boys are on the ball, they're so comfortable on the ball.
"The time he was with Donegal, the boys just loved him, he took the boys on so much.
"It'll be a massive, massive game for us, but we can just go there and have a go".