Kilcoo better now than when they won the UIster title, says Watty's Graham's Glen manager Malachy O'Rourke
KILCOO are a better side now than they were two years ago when they won the UIster title, reckons Watty’s Graham’s manager Malachy O’Rourke.
In only their Ulster Senior Club Championship match, O’Rourke’s men saw off Monaghan champions Scotstown to book their place in the semi-finals against a vastly-experienced Kilcoo side that won equally impressively against Cavan’s Ramor United on Saturday evening.
The Ulster club competition wasn’t played last year because of Covid so Down champions Kilcoo remain the provincial champions. O’Rourke says the past two seasons has allowed young players like Ryan McAvoy and Shealan Johnson to mature and improve.
“Kilcoo were very unlucky to lose the All-Ireland final as well and the couple of younger lads they have are now two years older so they’re actually getting better,” he said.
“I was very impressed with them against Ramor and they have loads of experience. Without trying to put them on a pedestal, it’s going to be a massive game for us but we’re delighted to be there.”
An interesting sub-plot to the semi-final is that the Down champions are managed by Maghera native Mickey Moran. Former Glen player Moran repeated his success with Slaughtneil by guiding Kilcoo to the Ulster title and O’Rourke expects a “great test” from his Magpies in a fortnight’s time.
“Mickey Moran (being a Glen native) is an added thing but from my point of view it doesn’t really come into it that much,” he said.
“Mickey has been in Kilcoo this last few years and his record speaks for itself. He has a great team with him there and a great bunch of players and they know how to win Ulster club games.
“It’ll be a great test and a great challenge for us. We have an ambitious group of lads and as soon as we stopped the celebrations – which went on a right few days after the county final – we said we wanted to give the Ulster club a rattle We said we didn’t want to be beaten in the first round of it and we achieved that and reset for today. Now the challenges get bigger but we’re delighted to still be there and the boys are looking forward to it.”
Glen ground out victory against Donegal champions St Eunan’s on their Ulster club debut but produced some of the fluency that saw them sweep through Derry yesterday and fully deserved their win at Celtic Park.
“You can talk about having character and all this stuff but it’s not until you’re actually in the middle of it that you find out whether it’s there or not,” said O’Rourke.
“Against St Eunan’s there’s no doubt it was character that got us over the line because after we missed the penalty it looked like the game was gone for us but the boys just dug in and we finished really strong.
“So that was a massive thing to come through – we knew we hadn’t played as well as we could but we knew we were still able to grind out the victory. We knew we would have to play better today and we did that.
“Glen are only dipping their toe into the Ulster club and they’ve obviously no experience of it because this is their first championship. It’s a winter championship and it’s always going to be tough going, there are always going to be big hits.
“The lads are young, fit and fresh and they’re well able to take that and it’s all part of it, you have to be prepared for that if you want to be competitive.”