Johnstone goal kills off hopes of battling Magherafelt
Kilcoo 1-11 Magherafelt 0-9
The battle-hardened Kilcoo got to the Ulster Club SFC semi-final with five points to spare over a gutsy Magherafelt side at Páirc Esler.
Jerome Johnstone's goal on the 37th minute landed the blow that would send the Down champions on their way in the defining third quarter. It came in the middle of a scoring blitz when Kilcoo forged a six-point lead, Conor Laverty and Eugene Branagan exploding into life with a brace of points each.
Magherafelt mounted a brave onslaught in additional time and will feel aggrieved that Joe McQuillan blew for a free on Emmet McGuckian after he played in Simon McErlain for a disallowed goal.
Having been down this road eight times in a decade, Kilcoo's composure in the early stages was apparent when they opened up a 0-3 to 0-0 lead. Aidan and Darryl Branagan were full of intelligent running that cut through the Derry side's defensive bloc. Both landed points and Mickey Moran's charges looked comfortable.
Magherfelt dug deep and showed why they claimed their first Derry title in 41 years when they knuckled down to draw level, 0-3 each, through Conor Kearns. Kilcoo revel when the game is at close quarters, and upped the ante to get their noses in front at half-time 0-5 to 0-4. Upon the resumption, Kearns kicked the opening score, but Kilcoo showed all their shrewdness to advance.
SCORERS - Kilcoo: J Johnston 1-1; P Devlin (2f), E Branagan, C Laverty 0-2 each; D Branagan, Aaron Branagan, A Morgan, R McEvoy, 0-1 each. Magherafelt: E McGuckian 0-3 (1f); C Murphy, C Kearns 0-2; S Heavron (1f), J Monaghan 0-1 each.
KILCOO - M McCourt; N Branagan, Aidan Branagan, N McEvoy; M Rooney, Aaron Branagan, A Morgan; D Branagan, D Ward; R McEvoy, P Devlin, R Johnston; E Branagan, J Johnston, C Laverty. Subs: J Clarke for R Johnston (46) S Johnston for M Rooney (51).
MAGHERAFELT - O Lynch; S McErlain, G Lupari, D O'Neill; C McCluskey, F Duffin, C Kearns; D Heavron, E McGuckian; P McLarnon, S Heavron, J Young; J Monaghan, C Murphy, A McElhone. Subs: M Lynch for P McLarnon (39), Declan Martin for P McElhone (41), C Rafferty for J Young (45), P O'Kane for C Kearns (BC, 50), J Keenan for G Lupari (50), M Higgins for S Heavron (51).
REF - J McQuillan (Cavan)