THE flurry of red cards flashed in the anarchic closing stages of Sunday’s semi-final means that six players have been sent off against Kilcoo in their last two championship games.
In the quarter-final, a trio from Carryduff were shown the line and, as red mist descended late in the last four clash with Clonduff, Ross Carr, Eamon Brown and Darren O’Hagan followed suit.
Kilcoo’s Niall Branagan was also sent off but the Magpies won by 11 points. The result was beyond doubt when the trouble started and several of the Magpies players showed remarkable restraint (getting-punched-in-the-face-and-not-retaliating type restraint) yet there are those who would pin the whole sorry episode on them.
Over a dozen years of being the top dogs, Kilcoo have crossed the line on occasions but they were much more sinned-against than sinning on Sunday and manager Karl Lacey repeated his assertion that his players are being targeted.
“We want to match aggression from teams but we also want to be controlled in that and I think the boys have done that really well,” said the Kilcoo manager.
“What happened against Carryduff two weeks ago and then what happened here in the last 10 minutes… I felt that Niall Branagan’s offence wasn’t a strike, it was just a bad tackle which happens every day you go out and play but I’m really happy with the discipline of the boys in relation to some of the boys.
“They are targeted, they’ve been county champions for, how long? They have All-Ireland medals and Ulster medals and teams are targeting them but they are disciplined and fairly controlled which is good.”
It was physical on Sunday night and you’d expect that in a championship semi-final. There were a couple of bookings in front of a huge crowd at Pairc Esler but Clonduff weren’t cheated or bullied out of the game. Kilcoo beat them fair and square and the regrettable late violence was a result of their petulance and frustration.
“There's definitely no need for things like that in our games,” added Lacey.
“It was a good competitive match if you take the score out of it Clonduff still had a big second half. “They played some really good football so it was just disappointing the way it went at the end. I saw scuffles and I saw things happening, but I don't know exactly what happened so I can't put my finger on it but it's just disappointing to see.
“The main thing for us was to just stay controlled, wait for the final whistle to go and get the boys regrouped and calm the emotions down a little bit.”
The discipline shown by his players means Lacey will have almost a full deck to pick from for the county final. The flipside for the Kilcoo manager is that scenes like those on Sunday night can be used to reinforce team spirt in the camp as they prepare for the final against Burren, the only club to beat them in a county decider since 2012.
“Team morale is good and there is good energy in the bunch,” said Lacey.
“There’s a couple of players coming back into it now and it goes back to the competitive nature we have on the training ground with everybody fighting for jerseys. It’ll be the same for the next two weeks – nobody is guaranteed a place and the boys know that.
“It comes back to Wednesday night now and who’s on it and who’s not. We’ll work our way through each session until next week and the team will be named and we’ll go at it again.”