Monday 23 October 2017

Kilcoo cut loose to send out clear signal of intent

Conor Laverty of Kilcoo gets his shot away despite the best efforts of Kingscourt’s Shane Gray in yesterday's AIB Ulster GAA Senior Club Football Championship, Quarter-Finals
Conor Laverty of Kilcoo gets his shot away despite the best efforts of Kingscourt’s Shane Gray in yesterday's AIB Ulster GAA Senior Club Football Championship, Quarter-Finals
A grim Kingscourt manager, Niall Lynch, watches with other members of staff duirng the AIB Ulster GAA Senior Club Football Championship, Quarter-Final
Kingscourt's Barry Tully lies dejected at the final whistle of AIB Ulster GAA Senior Club Football Championship, Quarter-Finals against Kilcoo
Kilcoo's Jerome Johnston celebrates scoring his side's second goal, while Ryan Carey, Kingscourt, reacts
Ryan Johnston, Kilcoo, in action against Kingscourt's Shane Gray during the AIB Ulster GAA Senior Club Football Championship, Quarter-Finals

Colm Keyes

Within five minutes of warming down after this victory, the majority of the Kilcoo players had made their way on to the bus in the car park behind the main stand in Kingspan Breffni Park.

Kilcoo 3-15 Kingscourts 0-5

The engine of the bus was running and the inference was clear. Their getaway would be swift and they wouldn't be dwelling on their previous hour's work at all.

Their eyes were only for the road ahead and a semi-final that pitches them in the path of old rivals Crossmaglen Rangers, a team that they have had such a fractious relationship with in the past.

Media ban

The apparent imposition of a media ban apart, there was little point in reflection anyway.

It was a ruthless dismantling of the Cavan champions Kingscourt Stars by what is now Down's most celebrated club, with five of the last seven county championships to their credit, including the last four in a row.

But Ulster success continues to evade them - they lost the 2012 final to Crossmaglen; hence their business-like attitude here.

They were slicker, faster, hit harder and were more ferocious in everything they did against a team that really wasn't sufficiently attuned for this level of competition.

In truth it was a poor reflection on the Cavan championship, but then the history of it points to little better.

No Cavan club has ever won an Ulster title in the 48 years since its inception. Five Cavan clubs have lost finals, including Kingscourt twice, in 1987 and 1990 but not since Bailieborough in 1995 has a club from the county made it to the last two.

Only Fermanagh clubs have a poorer record in the province.

They led once through Barry Reilly's early free for a foul on Peter Corrigan but water quickly began seeping through the gaps and that developed into a deluge once Kilcoo breached the cover on 23 minutes with a carefully-crafted goal to open a 1-5 to 0-3 lead.

It wasn't just the distinctive all-black strip which created that perception of ferocity. Kingscourt players didn't get time to settle on the ball and breathe at an altitude that they were comfortable with.

The hits were hard and regular right across the middle of the defence, where Darragh O'Hanlon was imperious and Aaron and Niall Branagan, Dominic McEvoy and Paul Greenan presented a firm, physical buffer.

Their counter-attack was precise and effective too and inevitably ended in the hands of the evasive Conor Laverty, who fired over five points and provided his usual sleight of hand and foot to confuse the Kingscourt defence.

Laverty made the key intervention for the opening goal. Barry Tully's run from defence was turned over under inevitable pressure with the Johnston brothers, Ryan and Jerome, spinning away from the scene of the theft before involving Paul Devlin closer to goal.

Devlin, one of a sextet of Down stars in the Kilcoo side, laid off to Laverty, who checked back on to his inside and looked to have spurned the chance.

But with those deft hands and keen eye he popped a pass back to Devlin, who had the simple task of batting to the net from a metre.

Kingscourt had scrambled to 0-3 each on 18 minutes after some superb Kilcoo points from Jerome Johnston (twice) and O'Hanlon but that move broke them and they got to the break trailing by 1-7 to 0-4.

Captain Alan Clarke and Tully applied themselves well for Kingscourt, while Corrigan won a few frees, but the fact that midfielder Reilly was their only scorer from play told its own story.

The second half compounded their misery. On 36 minutes Devlin put Greenan through but the shot was saved well from Gavin Sheehan. The danger wasn't cleared, however, and second time around Jerome Johnston snapped a shot past the helpless Kingscourt keeper.

Account

Laverty added two more points, O'Hanlon came up to convert another free and the gap was out to 11 points before Reilly closed Kingscourt's account on 41 minutes.

After that it was a matter of battening down the hatches and keeping out of the eye of the storm.

Kingscourt frustrations told when full-back Padraig Faulkner was red-carded for a wild challenge on Kilcoo substitute Donal Kane as the last quarter loomed. Kilcoo later had Daryl Branagan sent off for a second yellow card.

Greenan cut through for a third goal on 48 minutes and the scoreboard kept ticking on just one side.

SCORERS - Kilcoo: D O'Hanlon (3fs), C Laverty 0-5 each, P Devlin, J Johnston 1-2 each, P Greenan 1-0, D Kane 0-1. Kingscourt Stars: B Reilly 0-3 (1f), C McArdle 0-2 (2fs).

KILCOO - S Kane; N Branagan, Aidan Branagan, D Branagan; Aaron Branagan, D O'Hanlon, JJ McLoughlan; D McEvoy, P Greenan; R Johnston, P Devlin, M Devlin; C Laverty, A Morgan, J Johnston. Subs: J McClean for Morgan (43), D Kane for M Devlin (45), F McGreevey for McEvoy (45), Gary McEvoy for J Johnston (49), S O'Hanlon for Greenan (51), Gerard McEvoy for R Johnston (51)

KINGSCOURT STARS - G Sheehan; P Faulkner, R Sheridan, S Gray; B Tully, A Clarke, N McIntyre; B Reilly, C Gorman; P Tinnelly, P Corrigan, K McCabe; C McArdle, C McGowan, R Carey.

Subs: P Smith for McGowan (27), K Smith for Gorman (39), D Gunne for Carey (45), T Reilly for Tinnelly (46), M McGovern for McIntyre (55), JP Reilly for Gray (58).

Ref - B Cassidy (Derry).

Ulster Club SFC quarter-final

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