Drop in standards not tolerated in Kilcoo insists Rooney

Kilcoo's Micheal Rooney on the attack from wing-back. Picture: Cliff Donaldson.
Kilcoo's Micheal Rooney on the attack from wing-back. Picture: Cliff Donaldson.

IF you lack the hunger to give everything, you’ll sit on the bench - if you’re lucky, says Micheal Rooney. Life is black and white for the Kilcoo squad as they prepare for Saturday evening’s Ulster Club Championship semi-final against Enniskillen Gaels at the Athletic Grounds (6pm).

The three in-a-row chasing Magpies accounted for Monaghan champions in their provincial opener while, after winning their first Fermanagh title since 2006, Enniskillen progressed to the last four by beating Cavan’s Gowna on penalties.

Kilcoo wing-back Micheal Rooney was a goal-scorer in the All-Ireland champions’ quarter-final win over Ballybay. The double-scores success (it finished 2-14 to 1-7 in Clones) served notice that there is no prospect of the fire going out of the Down outfit.

“If you slack off at all you’ll be sitting watching the match,” said Rooney.

“There are boys who didn’t even make the 30 for the Ballybay game who would have been chomping at the bit to be playing so you’re always on your toes and the competition is good.”

Kilcoo did enough, just enough at times, to get through the Down championship and they needed penalties to get past Clonduff before pipping Warrenpoint after extra-time in the final. That form gave Ballybay, who went into the quarter-final meeting after comfortably beating Crossmaglen, hope but the Monaghan outfit were no match for Kilcoo on November 13.

“That was only our first game in Ulster and there are other big teams to come,” reflected Rooney, a teacher at St Patrick’s Grammar School, Downpatrick.

“We haven’t even thought about three in-a-row, we don’t think about that because if you don’t have the focus and the hunger you’re not going to get anywhere. Enniskillen had a good win, they got their first county title in a long time and now they have won in Ulster so they are next for us and we need to get focussed again because we know it’s going to be tough.

“They’ll be very hungry, Glen (Derry champions) will be very hungry and so will Cargin (Antrim). They will all think they can do very well in this competition and we’re no different, we just want to give a good account of ourselves and there are things we can work on because I’m sure Enniskillen will have noticed things about us and they’ll try to work on them.”

Ryan Johnston’s goal against Ballybay was a typical Kilcoo move - the sort that all their opponents plan for but none can prevent. A pass forward to Conor Laverty, his clever lay-off to a criss-crossing runner and then the brilliant finish. It put clear daylight between Kilcoo and their opponents at Clones.

“It was a tough game and we were worried because Ballybay are a formidable outfit and then there was the Jerome (Johnston senior) factor as well and Mark Doran on their line as well obviously knew a lot about us,” said Rooney.

“We knew they would have their homework done on us so it was a matter of getting going because four weeks’ off was a bit of a lay-off and we wanted to get back to the things that we could have done a wee bit better in the Down championship and try to implement them.

“It just onwards and upwards for us and hopefully we can keep pushing on now. We’ve started well and we need to keep that going.

“Ulster is very open this year and we need to keep that hunger for every game and hopefully we can do ourselves justice.”