GAA Football

Kilcoo make it eight finals on-the-trot with dominant win over Warrenpoint in Down Championship semi-final

Kilcoo's Jerome Johnston scored three points in last night's Down Championship semi-final. Pic Philip Walsh.
Andy Watters

Down Senior Football Championship semi-final: Kilcoo Eoghan Rua 1-18 St Peter’s Warrenpoint 2-6

From Andy Watters at Pairc Esler

THEY haven’t gone away you know. Kilcoo played like they had a point to prove and they proved it emphatically by dominating Warrenpoint, the side that had beaten them in the second round of this competition, to progress to their eighth consecutive county final (they’ve won seven) with a nine-point win.

On last night’s evidence, the Magpies will be red-hot favourites to keep their grip on the Frank O’Hare Cup. Of course, Carryduff – who’ll be appearing in their first ever final - will have something to say about that but they will be up against it. The margin between the sides last night was a surprise even to Kilcoo assistant-manager Conleith Gilligan

“We beat them by a point in the league, they beat us in the championship by a point so I expected it to be a point-game or extra-time,” said Gilligan.

“So, to be fair, that scoreline wasn’t a fair reflection on Warrenpoint throughout the season. Having to go to extra-time and penalties took a bit out of them and it was probably harder for them to get up for this game than us.

“We’re looking forward to the final. Carryduff have four or five county players, I’ve watched them this year and they are a very good team, very athletic and they will ask a lot of questions of us I’m sure.

“Complacency is never a factor about the Kilcoo boys. They know from two years ago against Burren that, if you’re not at it you can be beat on any given day.”

The loss was a sour note for this Warrenpoint side to go out on. As well as Kilcoo, Niall McAleenan’s side have also beaten Clonduff and Burren in this championship but finish with nothing to show for all their effort.

McAleenan had no complaints: “For some reason our boys seemed very nervy, very tentative and we made an awful lot of mistakes when we were going forward.

“They were playing on the break and we were a bit exposed at the back because of the mistakes we were making up front. Overall, on the night, we have no complaints, Kilcoo were much, much the better team. Are they nine points better than that Warrenpoint team? On another day, I don’t think so but tonight they were and they fully deserved their victory.”

Mickey Moran’s men led 1-3 to 0-8 at the break but they would have been almost out of sight had they taken the three goal chances they created. Jerome Johnston, Ceilum Doherty and Dylan Ward all hit the target but Warrenpoint goalkeeper Gary McMahon saved the first two and, when Ward beat him with the third, Ryan Magee was there to clear off the line.

Their defensive heroics kept the ’Point in it but they struggled to keep a lid on Kilcoo’s athletic running game and, as the first half wore on, they were chasing shadows.

Ross McGarry’s penalty (after Ryan Mallon was taken down) gave Warrenpoint a two-point lead but they managed just two more scores before the break though and, with lone Kilcoo forward Jerome Johnston contributing a couple, Kilcoo scored six.

His second came after a classy touch from younger brother Shealan and although a McGarry free stopped the rot, Kane’s 45 left Kilcoo two in front at the interval.

A pair of Ryan McEvoy frees doubled the Kilcoo lead early in the second half but Warrenpoint raised their game and two points from McGarry and another from Ryan Boyle reduced the deficit to a couple at 0-11 to 1-6.

But then the seasiders’ luck at the back ran out when Ryan Johnston, who was outstanding last night, played through Aaron Branagan. Once again McMahon saved but this time the rebound hit Branagan and the ball bobbled into the net.

Brothers Daryl and Eugene Branagan and then Ryan and Jerome Johnston combined to add further scores and another from Eugene Branagan (his third) meant that even a goal from Alan Davidson mattered little.

Kilcoo turned the knife in the closing stages with points from Kane, Ward and Miceal Rooney.

They haven’t gone away you know. Then again: Who ever thought they had?

Warrenpoint: G McMahon; R McAleenan, P Murdock, A Lynch; R Boyle (0-1), J Boyle, R Magee (0-1); Cormac McCartan, Ciaran McCartan; R McCormack, O Burns, N McCartan; R Mallon (0-1), R McGarry (1-3, 1-0 pen, 0-2 frees), D McAleenan

Subs: A Magee for McCormack (35), J Grant for N McCartan (36), A Davidson (1-0) for Cormac McCartan (48), C McLoughlin for D McAleenan (52), S O’Hare for R Boyle (57)

Black card: N McCartan (10)

Yellow cards: Ciaran McCartan (31), C McLoughlin (63)

Kilcoo: N Kane (0-3, 0-2 45, 0-1 free); N Branagan, R McEvoy (0-2 frees), A Branagan; C Doherty, D Branagan, E Branagan (0-3); P Greenan, D Ward (0-3); S Johnston, J Johnston (0-3), P Devlin (0-2 frees); R Johnston (0-1), N McEvoy, C Laverty

Subs: Aaron Branagan (1-0) for Greenan (HT), M Rooney (0-1) for S Johnston (52), J Clarke for Laverty (57)

Black card: Devlin (56)

Yellow cards: D Branagan (14), S Johnston (25)

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