GAA Football

Reigning champions Kilcoo see off Mayobridge in Down Championship opener

Kilcoo's Miceal Rooney scored two points in the first half and a goal at the death against Mayobridge. Pic Philip WalshShealan
Andy Watters

Morgan Fuels Down Senior Football Championship round one: Mayobridge 1-12 Kilcoo 4-9

From Andy Watters at Pairc Esler

THAT old déjà vu again. In the first half, Mayobridge were creative, determined and slick and thanks to Conleth O’Hare’s goal they led by two points at half-time.

During the interval you’d have been forgiven for thinking they might have the beating of Kilcoo but, like all top sides, the Magpies have a happy knack of coming out on top in close encounters and, true to form, they found their groove in the second half.

As the ’Bridge dropped deeper and ran out of ideas, three in-a-row chasing Kilcoo took control of the game, dictated the pace and Ryan and Jerome Johnston had conjured up goals before the impressive Miceal Rooney added gloss to the final scoreline with a tap-in just before the finish.

Losing by six points was harsh on Ciaran McKeever’s battling side and, as his team regroups for a backdoor run, the Cullyhanna native hopes to “get another rattle” at Kilcoo down the line.

“Every team wants to win a championship and we’re bitterly disappointed today,” said McKeever.

“We’re back out next weekend, we’re still in the championship and if there’s anything inside us, we’ll want to get another rattle at them boys.

“They were more clinical with their goal opportunities but hopefully we’ll see them down the line.”

McKeever pointed out the chances that came and went in the opening stages – the first directly from the throw-in. His side didn’t take them but Kilcoo don’t miss when the big moments come and that was the difference yesterday.

“It’s about winning and as we saw over the weekend, there’s so little between the sides,” said Kilcoo assistant-manager Conleith Gilligan.

“Even between Division One and Division 1B, there’s so little between the sides on any given day, you just have to be really careful. Whenever the game was there to be won, we dug in and just did enough.”

With the PA system playing up, supporters from both sides joined in a stirring rendition of Amhrán na bhFiann before throw-in and when the action started Mayobridge went straight on the attack.

Shane Annett’s smart pass sent Adam Crimmins through but he was denied by a brave stop from Martin McCourt (a late replacement for Niall Kane who was with his wife for the birth of their baby). Crimmins was involved in the first score when the impressive Cory Quinn burst through on a diagonal run and split the Kilcoo posts.

Goalkeeper Charlie Smyth added a free before the Johnston brothers Ryan and Jerome combined for Kilcoo’s opener but Quinn and O’Hare both scored as Mayobridge continued their bright start.

The workrate on both sides was at championship intensity. Darryl Branagan went in bravely to win a break in midfield and start the move that led to Rooney’s second point and then Conor Fitzpatrick chased down and robbed Jerome Johnston to set in motion the attack that culminated in a third for Quinn.

It was 0-5 to 0-3 at that stage but Kilcoo, coming out on top in the midfield battle, overhauled their rivals before Caolan Gallagher played in Quinn with a delightful curling pass and the Down forward laid the ball off to O’Hare who found the net.

Kilcoo hit back through the ever-dangerous Johnstons and this time it was Shealan who passed to Jerome who hit the back of the Mayobridge net. Despite the setback, the ’Bridge rallied and points from Gallagher and Quinn left it 1-8 to 1-6 at the break.

Hopes would have been high in the underdogs’ dressingroom but Kilcoo took control of the ball in the third quarter. However, their shooting was poor and six attempts had yielded just a point when Anthony Morgan and Rooney burst forward to create a chance for the lurking Jerome Johnston who tucked away his second goal of the game. Kilcoo, with Conor Laverty and Ryan Johnston seeing a lot of the ball, never trailed again.

Mayobridge coughed up possession and weren’t able to ask serious questions in attack after the Magpies dropped Anthony Morgan in as sweeper to cut off the supply to Caolan Gallagher and Quinn. At the other end, Darryl Branagan burst through the centre of the Mayobridge defence and passed to Ryan Johnston who poked the ball low into the net to leave four points in it.

To their credit, Mayobridge continued to battle and Smyth’s frees kept the game alive until the death. There were three in it when he lofted an injury-time free into the Kilcoo square but the Magpies held their nerve and broke forward. Rooney ran and ran, exchanged passes with Aaron Morgan and walked the ball into the net.

Another win for Kilcoo - it’s what they do.

Mayobridge: C Smyth (0-3 frees); C Fitzpatrick, S McNamee, K Lynchehaun; C Gallagher, K McClorey, C Linden; CJ Barr, S Annett; L Quinn, C O’Hare (1-1), R Brady; A Crimmins (0-1), C Quinn (0-6, 0-3 frees), C Gallagher (0-1)

Subs: L McManus for L Quinn (43), S O’Hare for Crimmins (53), P Lively for C O’Hare (56)

Yellow cards: C O’Hare (44), C Gallagher (45)

Kilcoo: M McCourt; N Branagan, Anthony Morgan, J Johnston (2-1); M Rooney (1-2), D Branagan (0-1), A Branagan; R McEvoy, P Greenan; C Doherty (0-1), R Johnston (1-2), Aaron Morgan; C Laverty, S Johnston (0-1), E Branagan (0-1)

Subs: S og McCusker for J Johnston (56)

Yellow cards: R McEvoy (21)

Black card: C Doherty (62)

Referee: D O’Hare

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