Kilcoo lay down early marker as first-half burst kills Carryduff hope

Carryduff's James Guinness gets away from Kilcoo's Callum Rogers during Monday night's Down SFC clash in Newry, Picture by Louis McNally
Carryduff's James Guinness gets away from Kilcoo's Callum Rogers during Monday night's Down SFC clash in Newry, Picture by Louis McNally Carryduff's James Guinness gets away from Kilcoo's Callum Rogers during Monday night's Down SFC clash in Newry, Picture by Louis McNally

Morgan Fuels Down SFC round one: Carryduff 0-10 Kilcoo 1-13

IT would be no surprise to see these two meet again at some stage, but it was Kilcoo who laid down an early marker in their defence of the Frank O’Hare Cup with an impressive victory over championship contenders Carryduff in Newry.

Although dreams of landing a third Ulster title on-the-trot ran aground against Derry kingpins Glen last year, the Magpies gave an early indication that they remain the ones to beat in Down as eyes turn to an 11th county crown in 12 years.

And, at Pairc Esler on Monday night, a late first half burst opened up a gap that league champions Carryduff could never close.

It had been nip and tuck as half-time approached too, with James Guinness – who missed last year’s championship due to a cruciate ligament injury – outlining his undoubted county class with a couple of eye-catching first half scores, before a brace from the brilliant Cian Clinton edged Finnian Moriarty’s men ahead, 0-6 to 0-5.

In typical fashion, though, the Magpies landed a sucker punch that sucked the wind from Carryduff at precisely the wrong time, scoring an unanswered 1-3 to close out the half and open up a five point lead heading into the break, Anthony Morgan, Ryan Johnston and Eugene Branagan splitting the posts either side of Callum Rogers’s 27th minute goal.

Rogers - part of Down’s Ulster U20 winning side this year - was on hand to palm home at the back post after clever inter-play from Jerome Johnston and Eugene Branagan.

However, the goal owed everything to a superb fetch from Chrissy Rooney as he collected Ryan Johnston’s wayward shot before opening up the space for the Magpies to inflict maximum punishment.

Kilcoo - for whom Donegal All-Ireland winner Karl Lacey was named as manager on the match programme - started without experienced campaigners such as Aaron and captain Darryl Branagan, as well as Down boss Conor Laverty, with Paul Devlin and Dylan Ward not part of the matchday panel.

At times they found Carryduff’s directness hard to handle early on, with Ronan Beattie and James Guinness posing problems. But all too often they were relying on expert finishing to stay in touch and, as Carryduff started to put a bit of air on the ball into their forward division, Kilcoo’s swarming bodies were ready to gobble up possession and counter off any stray passes.

Shealan and Ryan Johnston grew in stature as the half wore on, their pace prising open gaps as the Magpies started to turn the screw, with Anthony Morgan and youngster Jack Devlin stepping up to the mark too.

Having assumed control at the end of the first half, Kilcoo have shown time and again in the past they are not an easy side to chase down – and so it proved.

Clinton was magnificent at times in trying to drag Carryduff back into the game but, even with some new blood among their ranks, and a new man on the line, the Magpies are dab hands at killing any hope of a comeback.

After another Eugene Branagan score had pushed Kilcoo’s lead out to six with 10 to go, Carryduff had the half sniff at goal they had been waiting for Clinton’s raking ball into the square was collected by Eoin Donnelly.

The former Fermanagh star weighed up his options for a split second before pulling the trigger, only to see Macdarragh Hynes diving at his toe to divert the shot to safety.

Any lingering hope went in that moment as the Magpies did what they do best, slowing the pace to keep their opponents at arm’s length to see out a convincing victory that moves them into an intriguing round two clash with Steven Poacher’s Mayobridge, with Carryduff bidding to keep their hopes alive against Saul in the back door.

Carryduff: R Lavery; C Cassidy, O Sherry; M McGrath; P McCabe (0-1), J Connery, S McGonigle; E Donnelly, J McFlynn (0-1, free); J Tunney, J McGeough, D Guinness, C Clinton (0-5, 0-1 free); R Beattie, J Guinness (0-3). Subs: C Rooney for McFlynn (42), B Cox for McGonigle (47), L Toal for Cassidy (60)

Yellow card: D Guinness (15)

Kilcoo: N Kane; N Branagan, R McEvoy; M Hynes; M Rooney (0-1), C Rogers (1-0), J Devlin (0-1, mark); Aaron Morgan (0-1), R Johnston (0-1); Anthony Morgan (0-2, 0-1 mark), S Johnston (0-2), C Doherty, E Branagan (0-2); J Johnston (0-2, 0-1 free), C Rooney. Subs: S Og McCusker for J Johnston (54), C Laverty (0-1) for Devlin (57),

Referee: C Curran (Downpatrick)


Down SFC draw

Round 2A

Kilcoo v Mayobridge

Longstone v Glenn

Clonduff v RGU Downpatrick

Burren v Loughinisland

Round 2B

Carryduff v Saul

Ballyholland v Saval

Castlewellan v Bredagh

Warrenpoint v Bryansford