Laverty leads way as Kilcoo give harsh lesson to Ulster new boys
One of the most straightforward affairs you might ever wish to see in Ulster club football delivered another win for this impressive Kilcoo side, as they completely outclassed Armagh first-timers Maghery to make it to their first Ulster club final since 2012.
Kilcoo 4-13 Maghery 0-12
The nature of their team performance was best encapsulated by the contribution of their joint captain Conor Laverty.
He didn't get on the scoresheet himself, but was fouled three times by Eoin Scullion for converted frees and set up another point for Ceilum Doherty in the first-half alone.
Ryan Johnston took advantage of being left isolated on his marker David Lavery, spinning him on the turn and thumping past Maghery goalkeeper Johnny Montgomery to the roof of the net to leave the Down champions 1-8 to 0-3 up with just two minutes of the half remaining.
Then, Maghery committed hara-kiri. A short kick-out from Kilcoo goalkeeper Niall Kane was whistled for by referee Joe McQuillan. In his haste to get the ball to take the free, Maghery's Aidan Forker became embroiled in a tussle with Daryl and Niall Branagan and after some consultation with an umpire and a linesman, McQuillan sent Forker off on a straight red.
"The last thing I want is to end up that Aidan Forker gets the blame for this. The game was already heading for a very tough game with 15 players," reasoned his manager Shane McConville afterwards.
"Whatever you write, make sure Aidan Forker does not get any blame here.
"Yes, he was foolish, and it is something he will have to live with, that's fine, but don't make it any worse than what he needs.
"Maghery were outplayed, probably outclassed and that's experience for you. I have no regrets here. Kilcoo were by far a 10-point team better than us in my opinion."
From that point, it was a procession for the little club in the heart of the Mournes.
Four minutes into the second-half Felim McGreevy and Johnston worked the ball to Lavery on the edge of the square and he looped a hand-pass over Montgomery for the excellent Doherty to palm home.
Laverty then instigated another move that went through Gary McEvoy and Doherty for JJ McLoughlin to finish for the third goal.
The fourth arrived a minute later. Daryl Branagan's superb ball to Gary McEvoy produced a parry from Montgomery, but Doherty was on hand to stab home and add the flourish of a 'Dab' in celebration.
Without Crossmaglen in the mix, Kilcoo will feel this Ulster title is within their grasp. Their ambition is coupled with a strong panel and reserves of fitness that embarrassed their opponents here.
The worry might be that a 13-point walkover in a semi-final is scant preparation for an Ulster final against Slaughtneil, but that wasn't the view of their manager Paul McIver.
"I think if you beat Scotstown, Glenswilly, Burren and the Armagh champions today, then we've a lot of wars underneath our belt at this stage. So no, I wouldn't worry too much about it," the former Derry U-21 manager said.
As for the final itself on November 27, he said: "You have to do the business. Nobody will remember us in 10 years if we lose this final.
"We've been through some big battles and we'll give it one more big push in the final and see where it takes us, but we have some challenges in front of us now.
"Slaughtneil are going for an amazing bit of history themselves so there is a burning desire with them as well."
Scorers - Kilcoo: C Doherty 2-1, R Johnston 1-3, P Devlin 0-4 (3fs), JJ McLoughlin 1-00, E Branagan, M Devlin, A Morgan, D Kane (f), Gerard McEvoy (f) 0-1 each
Maghery: Stefan Forker 0-4 (2fs), C Mackle 0-2, A Forker 0-2 (fs), N Forker, R Lappin, Seamus Forker (f), B Crealey 0-1 each.
KILCOO: N Kane; N McEvoy, D O'Hanlon, N Branagan; D Branagan, E Branagan, Aaron Branagan; J McClean, F McGreevy; C Doherty, A Morgan, R Johnston; M Devlin, Paul Devlin, C Laverty Subs: D Kane for E Branagan (HT), Gary McEvoy for M Devlin (45), JJ McLoughlin for N McEvoy (45), Gerard McEvoy for D Branagan (53), N Morgan for McGreevy (53), Patrick Devlin for Paul Devlin (56)
MAGHERY: J Montgomery; K Nugent, O Lappin, G Campbell; D Lavery, C Higgins, N Forker; J Lavery, B Crealey; E Scullion, C Mackle, Stefan Forker; R Lappin, A Forker, S Cusack Subs: S Fox for Scullion (25), Seamus Forker for Mackle (40), P Forker for Campbell (40), S Tennyson for Laverty (51), J Lavery for Lappin (53)
REF: J McQuillan (Cavan)