LAST year, when these champions met at the semi-final stage, Glen briefly had the game in their hands.
For over 70 minutes they had gone toe-to-toe with Kilcoo and then, in the second period of extra-time, they got their noses in front thanks to a Conor Glass free. Victory was within their grasp then but, having carved out a winning position, Glen’s palms grew sweaty and the pressure took its toll.
They coughed up the mistake that the Magpies ruthlessly exploited with a Jerome Johnston goal and it was the Down champions who went on to retain their Ulster title and, for the first time, the All-Ireland.
That extra bit of composure was what separated the sides last year and it could come down to the same small margins in tomorrow’s final which is Glen’s first at this level.
The omens are very good for Kilcoo. They were scratchy throughout their county campaign and squeezed through one round on a penalty shootout. But they have been their old selves since they broke out into Ulster and have beaten Ballybay and then Enniskillen Gaels by 10 and 11 points respectively.
“I don’t know if we’re peaking at the right time,” said Conleith Gilligan, joint-manager of the Down champions, who are likely to have fit-again Dylan Ward back in their line-up tomorrow.
“When you get to this stage of the season you have to improve every week. The preparation for those games (Ballybay and Enniskillen) went really well. In terms of the Ballybay game we got a really good start and built on and, very much like the Enniskillen game, we had the breeze and we got a goal at a good time and that gave us a platform because they had to come out and leave gaps.
“It is just about trying to impose your style on the game as early as you can and hope that you can get on the scoreboard.”
By contrast, Malachy O’Rourke’s Glen were brilliant in the Derry championship. The Maghera outfit have been less convincing on the provincial stage but still had six points to spare against Errigal Ciaran and five against Cargin.
Derry native Gilligan knows his opponents well.
“I’ve seen a fair bit of them and they won Derry at a canter,” he said.
“They were just so strong and they set the benchmarks for all the Derry clubs to try and replicate.
"They just have so many options and they can play the game any way. If a team sets up defensive, they can break them down and if they want to play football, they will kick it so they are all-round very good.”
One of the many talking points before last year’s semi-final meeting was the prospect of Mickey Moran (then Kilcoo manager) coming up against his home town club. Moran officially stepped down after Kilcoo’s All-Ireland final victory and Gilligan and Tyrone native Richie Thornton have carried on his good work.
“Mickey is unique, there only is one Mickey,” said Gilligan.
“He would just come up with things that you would never think of and he is a great storyteller: It would be like parables; he would take something and relate it to a game.
“You can’t follow Mickey, Mickey has legendary status pretty much everywhere he goes and it is no different in Kilcoo, they have a serious bond with him.
“Richie and I try and be authentic and be ourselves and hope that is enough to do something.”