GAA Football

Kilcoo cruise through to their third Ulster final with commanding win over Enniskillen Gaels

Aaron Morgan celebrates a Kilcoo goal during his side's Ulster Club SFC semi-final win over Enniskillen Gaels at the Athletic Grounds on Saturday Picture: Philip Walsh
Andy Watters at the Athletic Grounds

Ulster Senior Club Football Championship semi-final: Kilcoo 3-14 Enniskillen Gaels 1-9

KILCOO cantered through to their third consecutive Ulster final thanks to an 11-point win over an out-gunned Enniskillen side who managed just a point in the first half.

Two clinically-taken goals from Shealan Johnston meant this issue was decided by the interval and although Enniskillen battled back bravely in the second half, the horse had already bolted by then.

With the wind at their backs, Kilcoo attacked towards the town end in the first half. A long ball from Tiernan Fettes – a replacement for the injured Dylan Ward – tested the Enniskillen defence early on. They passed it and then Jerome Johnston, searching for the scores that came so easily to him last season, cracked the first chance of the game wide after four and-a-half cagey minutes.

Fettes, after good work from Shealan Johnston and Anthony Morgan among others, opened the scoring with a sliderule finish a minute later and another from the left wing, this time from Ryan Johnston, doubled Kilcoo’s advantage.

Enniskillen were struggling to make any headway and the Kilcoo defence hunted the ball down in packs when the Gaels pushed into their territory. Fettes and Micheal Rooney combined to force a turn over and Rooney found Shealan Johnston who picked his spot with an excellent finish past Cian Newman.

Enniskillen won the kickout and worked the ball forward again but there was no cutting edge to their attack. Kilcoo inevitably turned them over inside their congested 45 and broke again but this time Ryan Johnston shot wide.

The luck Enniskillen needed didn’t go their way either. Brandon Horan’s ball found Richard O’Callaghan who claimed a mark. His shot hit the inside of the post and Paul Devlin had to be alert to scramble the ball clear.

Devlin’s free extended Kilcoo’s lead to six (1-3 to no score) after 20 minutes and then Conor Love blazed wide for Enniskillen who could not find the score they needed, and deserved, to get them a foothold in the game.

Devlin had missed two opportunities before Conor Laverty took a pass from Aaron Branagan and slotted over Kilcoo’s third point from the left wing and then Enniskillen finally opened their account on 24 minutes. John Reihill drove down the middle of the field and although he ran into a thicket of black and white shirts the ball broke back to him and he fisted it over the bar.

Daryl Branagan immediately cancelled it out and then, after Kilcoo had swarmed to win the kickout, ‘Dabs’ grabbed Fettes’ pass on the run and scored again with an even better finish. Doherty was Kilcoo’s seventh scorer in the next attack and Aaron Branagan was the eighth, with a mark, a minute later.

If the game wasn’t already all over then it soon was.

Enniskillen goalkeeper Newman’s pocket was picked by Laverty when he went on one outfield foray too many. Laverty played in Shealan Johnston who buried the chance to leave Kilcoo home and hosed, 2-8 to 0-1 ahead at the interval.

To turn it around Enniskillen needed a good start and half-time substitute Eoin Beacom gave it to them when he rifled over a fine point from midfield.

Devlin replied with two frees but Enniskillen clawed their way back towards respectability as O’Callaghan and then Conor Watson landed confidence-boosting scores. Beacom made a nonsense of the decision not to start him when he kicked his second superb point to leave the score 2-10 to 0-5 after 40 minutes.

Newman made up for his earlier error with a fine save from Ryan Johnston’s low shot and then leapt to hold Anthony Morgan’s attempted point. Beacom pushed forward and when the ball broke to him at the edge of the Kilcoo square he turned and hammered it into the corner of the Kilcoo net. O’Callaghan added another (his shot was given as a score although it drifted wide) but Kilcoo kicked on again when Laverty passed to Doherty and his cute ball to the back post cut out the Enniskillen defence and allowed Aaron Morgan to tap it over the line.

They only had pride to play for and Enniskillen showed some. Beacom’s 45 kept their chins up but Doherty’s jinking run and finish left Kilcoo 3-11 to 1-5 ahead. There was still time for

O’Callaghan to hit the post for the second time and Josh Horan and Conor Love to manage consolation points. But Kilcoo had the final say, Eugene Branagan was their 11th scorer and Devlin’s fourth free was the final act in another command performance from the Magpies.

Enniskillen Gaels: C Newman; J Tierney, A Nolan, J Ferguson; J Horan (0-1), J Cassidy, C Watson (0-1); B Horan, R O’Callaghan (0-2); N McDermott, R McDonnell, C McShea; C Love (0-1 free), C Smith, J Reihill (0-1)

Subs: P Reihill for N McDermott (21), E Beacom (1-3, 0-1 45) for C Smith (HT), R Bogue for Watson (50), C Quinn for Ferguson (50), P Cassidy for McDonnell (58)

Yellow cards: N McDermott (19), O’Callaghan (31), Cassidy (55)

Kilcoo: N Kane; N Branagan, R McEvoy, Aaron Branagan (0-1 mark); Anthony Morgan, D Branagan (0-2), M Rooney; Aaron Morgan (0-1), T Fettes (0-1); C Doherty (0-2), R Johnston (0-1), S Johnston (2-0); C Laverty (0-1), J Johnston, P Devlin (0-4 frees)

Subs: E Branagan (0-1) for Aaron Branagan (HT), D McEvoy for Anthony Morgan (52), G McEvoy for J Johnston (56), S Og McCusker for Laverty (56), M Hynes for S Johnston (56)

Referee: Sean Hurson (Tyrone)