Morgan Fuels Down Senior Football Championship final: Eoghan Rua, Kilcoo 1-12 St Peter’s, Warrenpoint 0-14
THEY haven’t gone away y’know - and it was clear to see how much it meant to Kilcoo as the Down championship went back to black, a year after Burren ripped their crown away.
For a team so unaccustomed to losing on the big stage - yesterday was their seventh title in eight years - that wound took a long time to heal.
Conor Laverty spoke passionately about the morning after the defeat before from the steps of the stand at Pairc Esler, signing off with a note a sheer defiance as he lifted the Frank O’Hare Cup aloft.
“This is for the supporters who give us everything,” he said, “and the people that give us nothing.”
For anybody who doubted Mickey Moran’s men, and surely only a fool would have, they had to do it the hard way to reach the final at all, and to get over the line yesterday as Warrenpoint edged ahead going into the last 10 minutes.
As always, though, the Magpies found a way; Dylan Ward’s dramatic goal nine minutes from time helping them seal a title as sweet as any that have gone before.
“Championship matches that go to the wire and you win by a point, there’s a special feeling for them because you’ve had to dig in, the result’s up in the air right until the last ball’s kicked,” said Kilcoo selector Conleith Gilligan.
“It was a nice feeling right at the end because there was a bit of adversity, we lost a couple of players, had a couple of players playing injured – we had to dig deep with it.
“But we expected that. I wasn’t bullshitting when I said Warrenpoint have been very good and the form team. All credit to them, they put up a great show and that’s what we were preparing for.”
Warrenpoint were left to rue a spurned goal chance of their own minutes after Kilcoo had hit the net, Ross McGarry fisting just wide of the post, as the St Peter’s piled on the pressure in the dying minutes.
“We’re absolutely devastated,” said boss Niall McAleenan.
“I have to praise the fellas, they went right to the final whistle and Kilcoo’s experience towards the end of the game maybe told that wee bit.
“The killer score was the goal. We came up the other end with a good move, Donagh possibly could’ve pulled the trigger himself but he slipped Ross in and he was very unlucky.
“It would have put us back in the ascendancy at that stage and given us a foothold in the game…
but that’s going to stand to our fellas.
“I couldn’t be prouder of them, they died with their boots out there on the field and this Warrenpoint team will come back.”
With another Down championship in the bag, Kilcoo can now turn their sights towards the prize that has eluded this golden generation thus far.
They will be back in Newry on November 3 to take on the winners of this weekend’s Derry final between Glen and Magherafelt, and Gilligan – who won two Ulster clubs as a player – knows how much that means.
He said: “Coming from Ballinderry where we had success, it’s the premier competition maybe in Ireland, it’s the sort of thing players dream of and Kilcoo are no different.”