Ward enhances growing reputation by leading Kilcoo to six-in-a-row
Kilcoo 0-13 Burren 0-11 - Down SFC final
Beaten manager Paddy O'Rourke summed it up best - "Kilcoo don't do panic" - after the champions used all their experience to outscore 14-man Burren by five points to two in the final 20 minutes at Pairc Esler to collect a sixth Down title in a row.
Dylan Ward enhanced his growing reputation as the new bright young thing in Down football with a match-winning contribution of four points from play, three in the second half, as Kilcoo equalled the six-in-a-row record set by Burren in the 1980s.
Not for the first time this season, or most seasons, Kilcoo had to scrap their way over the line.
Burren lorded midfield in the first half but kicked five costly wide during their period of dominance.
Kilcoo punished them, twice coming from three points behind in the first half to trail by just 0-7 to 0-6 at the break, and then slowly got on top, aided by vital scores from Ward and Jerome Johnston.
Burren lost Conaill McGovern's to a straight red for striking Down team-mate Paul Devlin off the ball in the 57th minute.
The game was free-flowing and fast-paced up until a ragged final 10 minutes, when Kilcoo also picked up three black cards.
The champions get the chance to avenge last year's Ulster final defeat by Slaughtneil when they host the Derry outfit in the preliminary round in two weeks' time.
O'Rourke, the 1991 All-Ireland winning Down captain, hopes Kilcoo can end the long search for a provincial title, even though they beat his club in the county decider for the third time in five years.
"For one thing it might free Down up and maybe they (Kilcoo) wouldn't keep trying so hard," smiled O'Rourke.
"We started fairly well but didn't put enough scores on the board. That kept them in the game, and they don't do panic.
"They are seriously experienced. I hope they do go on and win Ulster. That team deserves an Ulster."
Burren had the wind and knew they had to take the game to Kilcoo early. They made the start they wanted, landing the opening three scores inside four minutes, all from Donal O'Hare.
Ward got the champions on the board after 10 minutes and Paul Devlin's free reduced the deficit further. Burren responded with Ryan Treanor's excellent point from the wing and a '45' from goalkeeper Cathal Murdock.
Kilcoo grew into the game, but they blew a great chance when Darragh O'Hanlon blazed a penalty - won by Ceilum Doherty - over the bar.
Having had the wind, Burren knew a 0-7 to 0-6 interval lead wasn't nearly enough.
And Kilcoo stamped their authority all over the second half with points from Johnston and Ward putting them in front just three minutes after the break.
Burren hit back through Murdock and O'Hare, but once Ward levelled it at 0-9 apiece in the 39th minute, Kilcoo took over and punished an increasingly wayward Burren side who started turning the ball over too easily.
O'Hare and Shay McArdle had late goal-bound shots cleared and when O'Hare floated a last-gasp hopeful ball into the square, Dan McCartan fisted it over - it was not enough to stop Kilcoo joining them as the only Down teams to win six in a row.
Kilcoo manager Paul McIver was delighted to have extended the club's domination of the county, but said: "I look at football very differently than a lot of people.
"It doesn't pay my wages, it doesn't look after your health - your family is the most important thing.
"The players buy into that as well. This is only football. It's great to have days like this, but it is not the be-all and end-all."
McIver is looking forward to the Slaughtneil clash..
"Look, they are a brilliant team," he said. "Slaughtneil are at a level everybody else is trying to get to. But we are not talking about Ulster.
"This was a massive thing for Kilcoo, six in a row. Today, we created a wee bit of history in county Down and that's what we wanted to do."
Scorers - Kilcoo: D Ward, P Devlin (4fs) 0-4 each, J Johnston 0-2, C Laverty, D O'Hanlon, A Morgan 0-1 each. Burren: D O'Hare 0-6 (3f), C Murdock 0-2 ('45', 1f), K McKernan, R Treanor, D McCartan 0-1 each.
Kilcoo - S Kane; N Branagan, D O'Hanlon, Aidan Branagan; D Branagan, Aaron Branagan, P Devlin; F McGreevy, A Morgan; R Johnston, J Johnston, M Devlin; C Doherty, D Ward, C Laverty. Subs: E Branagan for R Johnston (38), J McClean for M Devlin (39), JJ McLaughlin for Aidan Branagan (52), D Kane for McClean (BC, 55), S O'Hanlon for D Branagan (BC, 58).
Burren - C Murdock; J McGovern, G McGovern, S Fegan; D Rooney, C Cox, C Foy; M McKay, C Toner; R Treanor, D O'Hare, S McArdle; Conaill McGovern, K McKernan, D McEntee. Subs: S Murdock for Treanor (41), Ciaran McGovern for J McGovern (41), D McCartan (0-1) for McKay (53), P Poland for McEntee (53), E Toner for C Toner (59).
Ref - P Faloon