HE already has four county titles to his name at the age of 21, and Ryan McEvoy hopes to head a young crew that can continue Kilcoo’s remarkable run of success for years to come.
The Magpies full-back was a steadying influence as the reigning All-Ireland champions held off a dogged Warrenpoint to claim extra-time victory in Sunday’s Down decider at Pairc Esler.
For Conor Laverty, Aidan and Niall Branagan, Paul Devlin, Jerome Johnston, Stephen Kane, Felim McGreevy and Gerard McEvoy, it was the 11th time they have seen the Frank O’Hare Cup come back to Kilcoo, while Aaron Morgan, Darryl Branagan and Ryan Johnston were celebrating a 10th title after a decade of dominance.
The challenge for Kilcoo is to maintain those standards once some of their more experienced men exit the stage, with Laverty predicting that the younger players “are going to breeze past this medal thing”.
McEvoy is already a central pillar of their success, and hopes it will stay that way as the Magpies bid to build on what has already been achieved.
“It’s strange... at 21, you feel experienced, almost as if you’re getting old,” he said.
“But every year you build more into the team and you have the likes of Conor Laverty, Aidan Branagan, Niall Branagan, they are coming to their latter years and some of us younger boys have to step up.
“I am trying my best to do that - to be a leader and see the younger lads coming through, pushing on the older boys as well.
“Those boys have put in over 20 years of hard, solid work, trying to get the respect, and the record is just incredible. I am just delighted for them. They deserved every single one of them, and maybe more.”
Having only known Mickey Moran as the main man for the vast majority of his senior career with the Magpies, this campaign has been a bit different for McEvoy.
Moran called time on his successful three-year stint after leading Kilcoo to the All-Ireland title back in February, with right hand men Conleith Gilligan and Richard Thornton stepping into the breach.
And having that continuity from the previous regime has ensured a seamless transition at the top.
“It’s definitely a change.
“Mickey Moran is one of the greatest managers in GAA history and the two boys definitely learned a lot from him last year, and ‘Deets’ [Gilligan] over the past few years.
“But we just do what Kilcoo always do - we sit down and analyse, we work hard. Richie and Conleith are two great men. Mickey was a big loss to us but those boys have learned so much from him… they are unbelievable.
“Anything they ask of us, we do, and anything we ask of them, they do for us.”
McEvoy will be heeding another familiar voice once the inter-county season gets up and running too, with Kilcoo team-mate Laverty taking over the Down reins from James McCartan as the Mournemen look to banish the memories of a forgettable 2022.
Sunday’s success ensures Laverty is facing a busy spell in the weeks and months ahead as he attempts to juggle both, but McEvoy has no doubt his full focus will remain on Kilcoo’s Ulster title defence.
“Lav is giving his all to Kilcoo, as he always does,” he said.
“The county will have to start soon, but you know him, he can juggle a lot of things. He is a busy man, but he is a shrewd, shrewd man.
“He loves what he is doing and he will be giving his all to Kilcoo all the same.”