Four red cards as Kilcoo see off Clonduff to reach Down championship decider

The red mist descended at the end of the game with four players sent off
The red mist descended at the end of the game with four players sent off

Morgan Fuels Down Senior Football Championship semi-final: Kilcoo 2-15 Clonduff 1-7

FOUR players were sent off as a game that had been one-sided in the first half came to life in the second and descended into violent anarchy in injury-time.

Kilcoo looked a level above their opponents in the first half and deserved their win but, inspired by a Stephen McConville goal on the stroke of half-time, Clonduff got back into it until Sean Og McCusker’s strike appeared to end the argument with 10 minutes to go.

Well beaten, the fustrated Yellas went down fighting and had three players – Ross Carr, Darren O’Hagan and Eamon Brown sent off in the closing stages. Niall Branagan also saw red and the Kilcoo bench was involved in a mass brawl after O’Hagan waded into them on his way off the field.  

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The hot-tempered finish was a contrast to a lacklustre start for Clonduff who were a point down after 40 seconds and five behind after six minutes.

Eugene Branagan opened the scoring with the first of three points from play before the break and Clonduff – who pushed Eamon Brown up on Ryan McEvoy but refused to kick the ball into him – were too ponderous as they tried to reply and eventually lost possession.

Kilcoo, already looking too sharp for their opponents, went straight up the field and cut them apart with zig-zagging runners and Sean Og McCusker clipped over their second.

Then, after a Patrick Brannagan wide, Kilcoo went short with the kickout and two passes later the ball was in the Clonduff net. This time McCusker was the creator and Jerome Johnston took his pass and hammered a shot into the roof of the net.

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Ross Carr opened Clonduff’s account with a good finish but again Kilcoo were able to sweep forward and create space where there appeared to be none. Eugene Branagan drifted onto a Paul Devlin pass and split the posts from the left.

Clonduff pushed men forward but were unable to break down Kilcoo’s defensive screen and they left themselves wide open at the back. A Paul Devlin free left it 1-4 to 0-1 after 14 one-sided minutes and although Stephen McConville managed a free of his own Branagan quickly added his second and was back in his own square moments later to cut out a pass aimed for Eamon Brown.

Shealan Johnston clipped over Kilcoo’s next and then, Clonduff’s Patrick Brannagan seemed to have enough with the lateral passing. He charged through the middle and smashed a shot goalward but it hit McEvoy and bobbled wide.  

Devlin landed two frees and Eamon Brown and Eugene Branagan swapped points before Clonduff gave themselves something to play for in the second half when Stephen McConville stabbed the ball into the net after a goalmouth scramble.

Kilcoo led by six points (1-9 to 1-3) at the interval and it was soon five when McConville converted the free after Darren O’Hagan had been fouled.  

Aaron Sherry saved brilliantly from Jerome Johnston to keep the Yella’s ship afloat and three wides followed in a sticky period for the Magpies. Suddenly breaks started to go Clonduff’s way as they got a foothold in midfield where Patrick O’Hagan had come into the game and Kilcoo responded by telling their number 26 (Conor Laverty) to warm up.

Devlin stopped the rot with a simple free but Arthur McConville, brought in at half time, turned and blasted over a point to keep it interesting and it remained so after Niall Kane and McConville had swapped dead ball scores.

Laverty passed to Daryl Branagan. “House, house,” he warned but his mate didn’t heed the danger, was closed down and lost the ball. Eamon Brown raced forward but blazed wide and then Patrick O’Hagan did the same and Kilcoo, as they do, made them pay.

Eugene Branagan and Anthony Morgan worked the ball forward for McCusker who slammed an emphatic finish past Sherry.

“UTM, UTM,” went up the packed stand because Kilcoo knew they had won it then.

Christopher Rooney added two points and Jerome Johnston two more as the fans began to head for the exits.

Those that left missed red cards for Ross Carr, Niall Branagan, Darren O’Hagan and Eamon Brown as tempers boiled over before the final whistle. It began when Branagan caught O'Hagan with a late challenge in the closing stages. Carr and Branagan were sent off and, after a brief period of calm, trouble broke out again and O’Hagan and Brown were red-carded.  

There was more carnage as the Clonduff players left the field.

Perhaps enraged by comments from the Kilcoo bench, they rushed into the Magpies ranks and punches were thrown in a one-in, all-in brawl. Order was eventually restored and the bad-tempered finish shouldn’t take away from an excellent display from the defending champions who will take some stopping when they meet Burren in the final.

Kilcoo: N Kane (0-1 free); N Branagan, R McEvoy, E Branagan (0-3); M Rooney, D Branagan, S Og McCusker (1-1); Aaron Morgan, R Johnston; S Johnston (0-1), J Johnston (1-3), Anthony Morgan; P Devlin (0-4 frees), C Rooney (0-2), C Doherty

Subs: C Laverty for P Devlin (44), J Devlin for McCusker (54), M Hynes for Doherty (59), T Fettes for R Johnston (60), C Rogers for E Branagan (60)

Yellow cards: D Branagan (39), J Johnston (54)

Red card: N Branagan (60)

Clonduff: A Sherry; J O’Hagan, D O’Hagan, L Brannagan; J Gribben, P Brannagan, C Murray; P O’Hagan, R Carr (0-1); R Brannagan, B McConville, C Carr; P Wilson, E Brown (0-1), S McConville (1-4, 0-4 frees)

Subs: D Rafferty for R Brannagan (28), A McConville (0-1) for Wilson (33), T Close for Gribben (33), A Carr for Murray (56)

Yellow cards: J O’Hagan (39), S McConville (54), A Carr (60)

Red cards: R Carr (60), D O’Hagan (62), E Brown (62)

Referee: C Curran (Downpatrick)