Hurt from Glen defeat a 'driving force' for Kilcoo: Ryan McEvoy
THE hurt from last year’s Ulster final defeat to Watty Graham’s, Glen has been a “driving force” for Kilcoo – but the Magpies are looking no further than the defence of their Down title, according to Ryan McEvoy.
The 2022 All-Ireland champions were vying to complete a hat-trick of Ulster titles when they came unstuck against the reigning Derry kingpins, with the joint management team of Conleith Gilligan and Richie Thornton since stepping away, Karl Lacey taking up the reins.
As stalwarts Aaron Branagan and Paul Devlin are still working their way back to full fitness, and midfielder Dylan Ward is abroad and out of the picture for now, the Donegal All-Ireland winner has placed his faith in the youth of men like Callum Rogers and Jack Devlin.
It has paid off, with the Magpies safely navigating their way into another Down championship semi-final, eyes firmly fixed on lifting the Frank O’Hare Cup for the 11th time in 12 years.
Full-back McEvoy has become a cornerstone of a side that has known little about losing in recent times, and he admits the pain of losing their grip on the provincial crown still stings.
“You want to be playing on the biggest days all the time, we love playing football, we love winning – winning is all we want to do,” said the 22-year-old.
“The Glen game hurt, it really did, and that’s a driving force, but you can’t look too far ahead. We take one game at a time because we know how competitive and how physical the Down championship is.
“On any day, you never know what’s going to happen.”
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Sunday was a case in point. Playing their first Down championship game outside of Pairc Esler since a 2019 quarter-final win over An Riocht in Newcastle, Kilcoo eventually came through a feisty quarter-final clash with Carryduff.
The city club finished up with 12 men, while boss Finnian Moriarty was also shown a red card as referee Micheal Moore’s card count soared during an eventful afternoon in Downpatrick.
Yet they looked to have the Magpies on the rack at one point, leading 0-4 to 0-1 as half-time approached before a second yellow for Carryduff’s Cian Clinton, followed seconds later by a superb Darryl Branagan score, altered the landscape.
“Aye look, it’s a championship quarter-final, it’s always going to be hot, heavy and physical. That’s just the way the game ebbed and flowed, it was hard-hitting, obviously Miceal thought they were over the line and probably rightly so in both halves.
“The ‘Dabs’ [Darryl Branagan] point really settled us down, it gave us a good benchmark to come in at half-time and we started well in the second half, got some points on the board.
“We managed the game well from that point, obviously we butchered a couple of chances, but that’s the way some games go.”
It was a challenge for Lacey too, considering Kilcoo had already beaten Carryduff in the first round of the championship three weeks earlier.
Last year the Magpies eased past Clonduff early on before edging past their neighbours on penalties at the quarter-final stage a month later, so the warning signs were there heading into Sunday’s game.
“It’s hard to re-analyse because you don’t know what way a team’s going to set up against you.
“It was the same last year against Clonduff, obviously we beat them well in the first round then it went to penalties when we played them again.
“Same here today, Carryduff were 4-1 up, could’ve been more, so it’s hard to know what way a team’s going to set up.
“But Karl’s mentality is second to none. Everything’s done to the best of your ability, train hard every night, the way Karl talks, he talks with passion… you can see he’s picturing himself playing. He’s just unbelievable.”