'It was good to get this one for him': Kilcoo's Ryan McEvoy dedicates title win to brother
HE already has three Down championship medals at the tender age of 20, but Ryan McEvoy insists Sunday's victory over Burren was the sweetest of the lot after a tough week for the Kilcoo full-back and his family.
You would hardly have known McEvoy carried any worries into the game after a typically composed display, yet just days earlier brother Caelan had been called over to London for a long-awaited liver transplant operation.
The call came at 9am on Wednesday morning, his flight at 11.30am, and it wasn't long before 24-year-old Caelan - a former underage player with the Magpies - was getting ready for surgery.
Over the past 11 years the 24-year-old has come through two previous liver transplants, life-threatening surgeries, multiple blood transfusions and several setbacks, yet he remains at the very heart of Kilcoo.
He has been at the forefront of every club member's thoughts in recent days, and younger brother Ryan hopes Sunday's win helped raise Caelan's spirits as dad Richie and mum Katrina kept him up to speed with the action in Pairc Esler.
“Aye, it's been a tough week,” said Ryan.
“I was just coming through Mayobridge on the way to work when my mother rang to say he'd been called for a transplant - I had to swing the van round and come straight home.
“He got one in 2018 and it worked for a week… they've kept monitoring it until now. I think he was in shock, we probably all were, but everybody's just glad it came at the right time.
“It's bittersweet to be honest, not having him here today, but at the same time it's very much needed. Him and my daddy help out with the team, getting all the kit ready, so for them not to be here was tough - it was good to get this one for him.
“I was talking to him on the day of his operation, he's in intensive care so I haven't been speaking to him since, but I've been keeping in touch with my parents. We got a lot better news this morning to say that he was out of his bed and onto his chair.
“It's been so far, so good. Hopefully it keeps continuing that way.”
McEvoy was only too delighted to have football to focus on, and was quick to pay tribute to his Kilcoo team-mates and everybody at the club who have rallied around him and the rest of his family.
“On Wednesday evening at training, then on Friday, these boys keep your mind off it, keep you going at training… probably give you the odd bit of bad manners as well.
“But it takes that to keep your head right, especially the week it was with the final coming up. Those boys are amazing, every day they're all asking how he is, keep us posted… they're just amazing, every one of them.”
The Magpies did Caelan proud by turning in their best performance of the championship campaign to overcome a talented Burren side, led by former Kilcoo manager Jim McCorry.
Jerome Johnston's superb goal just five minutes in set the tone for a ninth title in 10 years, and McEvoy insisted days like these are never taken for granted by a community who waited 72 years before finally getting over the line in 2009.
“You have to live it to the full when you get days like this,” he said.
“Them older boys left a legacy for us to pick up and continue, they gave us something to dream about. We were cubs back in 2009, I was standing just over there - near where we lifted the cup this evening - roaring and shouting, just like them young ones are today.
“It's crazy what has happened since then, but long may it continue.”