Goals conceded a concern for Kilcoo ahead of Down final admits selector Conleith Gilligan

Ryan Johnston, who was starting his first game of the season for Kilcoo on Saturday night, tries to get away from Clonduff's Jayme Gribben. Picture by Cliff Donaldson
Ryan Johnston, who was starting his first game of the season for Kilcoo on Saturday night, tries to get away from Clonduff's Jayme Gribben. Picture by Cliff Donaldson

KILCOO selector Conleith Gilligan admits he is concerned by the amount of goals the Magpies have conceded en route to yet another Down championship final.

Clonduff full-forward Arthur McConville bagged two in Saturday night’s semi-final to keep the Yellas in the game, with a first half penalty awarded after Kilcoo struggled to deal with a long ball into the square.

His second goal came about when another Clonduff attack wasn’t adequately dealt with, allowing McConville to slot home into an empty net after Martin McCourt had initially denied Barry O’Hagan.

Added to the four conceded over two games with defending champions Burren in the last eight, Gilligan admits it is an area they need to get to grips with ahead of their Down decider against St Peter’s, Warrenpoint on Sunday, October 13.

“Absolutely it’s a concern,” said the former Derry star.

“The way modern football is now, it’s very hard to score three points, it takes a long time, and if you give up a goal it takes a lot of effort and energy to get that back. You want to be trying to avoid that at all costs.

“Sometimes things happen outside of your control, and it was like that tonight, but obviously it would be a concern for us.”

Yet, despite those setbacks, it was Kilcoo who once again kept cool heads when the game was in the balance, scoring the final five points after Clonduff’s second goal.

They closed out the quarter-final replay against Burren in similarly impressive fashion, scoring two goals at the death to advance, but Gilligan believes there is more to it than the huge bank of experience Kilcoo have accumulated through the years.

“It’s hard to know; you hope that’s the reason,” he added.

“There’s a lot of things at play – momentum, an odd break here that you might get, and we seemed to get that wee rub of the green at that time when it could’ve gone either way.

“Maybe it was experience, maybe it was luck, but we were certainly delighted it went our way at that stage.”

It leaves Magpies preparing for an eighth consecutive Down final, where they will bid to bury the heartbreak of last year’s devastating defeat to Burren.

Experienced boss Mickey Moran was charged with re-energising the panel after succeeding fellow Derry man Paul McIvor, and Gilligan insists it was a case of going “back to basics”.

He said: “They had been on the road a long time, the long-term injuries, there was players had gone for years in-a-row straight in from club championship to Ulster Club and then five or six of them out with Down.

“There was a lot of players had played a lot of football and it just was a case that we just stripped it back to basics. There’s no magic formula, it’s just basic stuff that we’re trying to instill and they’ve responded well to that.

“They’re a good group of players, they work very hard, and their club’s something they’re very passionate about.”

In this year’s decider they will come up against a Warrenpoint side who were ruthless in dispatching Ballyholland last Friday night.

Kilcoo proved too strong when they met in last year’s semi-final, but Gilligan knows a major challenge lies in wait having seen them at close quarters during the season.

“They were very impressive, and in the games we’ve played against them they’ve been very impressive. They beat Clonduff with a fair wee bit to spare earlier in the championship so we know they’re formidable.

“Coming here we knew there was three, four teams who could win a championship and Warrenpoint were definitely one of those. Like all these things, there’s nothing handed out easy either way and we’ve the utmost respect for them.”