Sunday 18 February 2018

Devlin sparks fightback as 14-man Kilcoo shock St Gall's

ST GALL’S 0-10

Fourteen-man Kilcoo pulled off a huge shock in Ulster by beating former All-Ireland champions St Gall's to reach their first provincial final.

The Down champions were underdogs to prevail in the Athletic Grounds, but they came alive in the last 10 minutes when their midfielder Niall McEvoy received a straight red card.

St Gall's were poor all day but they still led by 0-8 to 0-5 when McEvoy was sent off.

Twice during the Down championship, Kilcoo won with 14 men and the loss of McEvoy clearly didn't hinder them yesterday as they went on to outscore St Gall's by 1-4 to 0-2.

Substitute Sean Devlin grabbed the all-important goal two minutes after the red card to spark the fightback and the sides traded points in a dramatic closing few minutes.

St Gall's totally fell apart with the extra man and left gaps everywhere.

Yet twice they grabbed equalisers with first Karl Stewart, their best player on the day, and then Sean Kelly kicking inspirational scores.

Both sides went searching for the winner but extra-time looked a certainty. Kilcoo were easily the dominant team at this stage with Paul Devlin and Darragh O'Hanlon impressive.

St Gall's collapsed, failing to utilise the spare man or work out who was picking up who.

Kilcoo were patient in their build-up play and kept possession for a couple of minutes. They probed for the opening until wing-back Gerard McEvoy ghosted in behind the St Gall's defence and fisted the ball over the bar.

Referee Martin Sludden signalled for three minutes of stoppage-time, but he was liberal with it and the drama intensified.

St Gall's went hunting for the equaliser for a third time but Kieran McGourty's shot dropped wide and Kilcoo broke again, with Paul Devlin tapping over the insurance free.

The late drama more than made up for how poor the game was in the first half. Only a run of excellently taken points in the last few minutes of the first half saved it from being a complete bore.

St Gall's went 27 minutes without a score in that first half and there was no score at all for 22 long minutes.

A Paul Devlin free had Kilcoo 0-2 to 0-1 ahead in the seventh minute – and that's the way it stayed until Karl Stewart (two), Kevin Niblock and Conor Laverty made it 0-4 to 0-3 to St Gall's at the break. St Gall's kicked seven wides in the opening half and CJ McGourty missed a simple free in each half.

He was unhappy when taken off in the 56th minute, but his form was symptomatic of the malaise affecting the side.

Scorers – Kilcoo: S Devlin 1-0, P Devlin (2f), D O'Hanlon 0-3 (1f) each, Gerard McEvoy, C Laverty, R Johnston 0-1 each.

St Gall's: K Stewart 0-4, K Niblock 0-3, S Kelly, C McGourty, M Pollock 0-1 each.

KILCOO – S Kane; N Branagan, N McEvoy, D Branagan; S O'Hanlon, A Branagan, Gerard McEvoy; P Greenan, D Kane; J Johnston, P Devlin, D O'Hanlon; C Laverty, A Devlin, Gary McEvoy. Subs: R Johnston for Devlin (37), S Devlin for Gary McEvoy (49), A McEvoy for Kane (59), A Devlin for Johnston (60).

ST GALL'S – C Kerr; P Veronica, A McClean, M Kelly; A Healey, S Kelly, T O'Neill; S Burke, A Gallagher; N O'Neill, K Niblock, Kevin McGourty; C McGourty, M Pollock, K Stewart. Subs: Kieran McGourty for Burke (46), D O'Hare for C McGourty (56), C Brady for Veronica (59).

REF – M Sludden (Tyrone).

Irish Independent

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