Poacher turns goalkeeper in Knockmore's Mayo title hunt
Horror knee injury sees former county star Kilcoyne take on new role with his club
Aidan Kilcoyne has won his own version of the 'battle of wounded knee' and the reward is a place in the Knockmore team to play holders Castlebar Mitchels in the Mayo senior football final tonight.
Kilcoyne, a former inter-county forward with Mayo, made his comeback as a goalkeeper with the club who hope to win their first Mayo title since 1997.
It's all change for Kilcoyne who at one stage could see no future in the game following a horrific knee injury which happened in simple, yet devastating fashion.
Just three years ago he was warming up for his club Knockmore prior to a county quarter-final against Ballintubber.
Out of nothing, Kilcoyne suddenly found himself in agony and not a ball kicked in anger.
"We'd had the team photograph taken and then I just went off by myself to do a few short sprints, and then I went to do a couple of sharp turns.
"On one of them my foot just got caught in the ground, but I continued the turn, and I dislocated my kneecap.
"When I did that I tore the ACL, PCL, LCL, did some medial ligament damage, did some cartilage damage," he said.
Basically, Kilcoyne did the whole spectrum of knee injuries in one fell swoop, and he needed a couple of operations and extensive rehab before he felt anything like being back to normal.
There was one big problem when it came to football - his right knee would not stand up to sprints.
As fate would have it, he was telling a fellow Knockmore member last December the state of the knee when the suggestion arose: would he consider playing in goal?
"I hadn't really thought about it much before that, but over the Christmas I was really thinking about it.
"I spoke to a few of the lads in Knockmore to see what they would have thought, and they basically said if that gets you back in and it's what you want to do, you're as well to try it anyway and see where you want to go.
"I tried it and played a couple of the early Michael Walsh League games in Mayo. That went quite well. We ended up winning that tournament. I've been there ever since. It's worked out pretty okay so far," said Kilcoyne.
Ironically, his debut as Knockmore's goalkeeper last February came against Ballintubber, the team he never got to play against on that fateful day in October, 2013.
The Knockmore manager Ray McHale, who has guided the team to tonight's county final against holders and Connacht champions Castlebar Mitchels, paid tribute to the forward-turned-goalkeeper for his contribution to the cause this season.
"He's a very influential fella. In the last two years he made a monumental effort to get back playing with us.
"Unfortunately, because of his injury, the only place he was able to play with us was in goal, but he has been a big plus for Knockmore, very experienced," said McHale.
Mayo senior star Kevin McLoughlin has played a key role in helping Knockmore to their first final appearance since losing to Charlestown Sarsfields in 2009.
Last weekend they eliminated the Breaffy club which was backboned by the O'Shea brothers and county goalkeeper Rob Hennelly in the semi-finals.
The game ended in an unseemly confrontation between some players and officials of both sides, but manager McHale dismissed it saying: "A schemozzle? You'd see a bigger schemozzle at an old people's party.
"But genuinely, as a club and me personally, there's nothing but admiration for Breaffy and Castlebar, and whatever happens, that will remain.
"Castlebar have been in two All-Ireland finals, they're very successful and a first-class outfit.
"We know we're rank outsiders everywhere except inside our own dressing room, but we consider ourselves with an outstanding chance," said McHale.
Aidan Kilcoyne now works as a marketing executive for Southern Europe with Betfair, and he's backing Knockmore to upset the odds tonight at MacHale Park. "We know that we need to play to the absolute max of our potential to beat them, but we're confident we can produce that performance," he said.