Kilcoo jumping for joy as Magpies claim six out of six.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

IT'S a sexy six for Kilcoo. They defeated Burren on Sunday (1 October) at Pairc Esler to make it six titles in succession and draw level with Burren for the longest-winning run in the history of the Down Senior Championship, writes Tony Bagnall.



The Magpies went into the final as overwhelming favourites but the St Mary's club launched themselves from the blocks and in the opening 15 minutes were by far the better team.

Down man Kevin McKernan was a colossus all over the park while the midfield pairing of Mark McKay and Connor Toner consistently plucked ball from the clouds.

Donal O'Hare was on target regularly while Cathal Foy epitomised the spirit in this side with his constant running and tackling. Indeed in one one death or glory challenge he put his head where others wouldn't have put their feet and emerged with the ball.

Burren were in control in the early stages but gradually Kilcoo edged themselves into the match. Darragh O'Hanlon and Niall Branagan began leading from the front with powerful runs out of defence, while Ryan Johnson and Conor Laverty started to put pressure on the Burren defence.

And 20-year-old student Dylan Ward, who wasn't down in starting 15 on the match programme, hit four sensational points and won himself the Man of the Match award.

It was a riveting game and for three quarters of it there was little to separate the sides. But in the vital last quarter the Magpies did what they do best. They controlled possession and in the end were worthy winners.

A happy Kilcoo manger, Paul McIvor said: "Six in a row, yes, it sounds great. After a slow start, we got ourselves into the game. And typical of this Kilcoo team they never give in and they never give up.

"But today was the toughest final of the three I've been involved in. Great credit to Burren, they were up absolutely super. They have a great tradition and there's a lot of hurt there after losing finals in the past few years.

"It was one of these games of football where there were no questions asked. The teams got stuck into each other. We were lucky to get over the line and get the result.

"The boys work extremely hard, training every single night. The resources are there from the last five or six years so they have serious fitness levels .

"We knew if we could weather the first 15 minutes, and we talked about it, we would do enough to get over the line - and that's what we did," said the Magpies' boss.

Yet Burren had a dream start with Donal O'Hare pointing after a scant nine seconds. And the same player added two more points in the next four minutes. Were the astute bookies who quoted Burren at three to one outsiders, going to be proved wrong? It certainly looked that way.

And in fact it was nine minutes before Kilcoo registered on the scoreboard, then Dylan Ward doing the needful. Paul Devlin cut the gap to a single score with a free on 11 minutes.

Still the green-shirted St Mary's side, managed by former Down and Armagh stars Paddy O'Rourke and Stevie McDonnell, replied in style with scores from Ryan Treanor and a mighty 50-yard effort from 'kee per Cathal Murdock However, on 19 minutes the Magpies had an opportunity to level matters when a combination of Kevin McKernan and Jaimie McGovern halted Ceilum Doherty with referee Paul Faloon awarding a spot kick.

Up stepped the usually sure-footed Darragh O'Hanlon but he blazed high over the bar. Still, Kilcoo did manage to square matters when Paul Devlin and Conor Laverty pointed.

Soon 26 minutes were gone but in the final minutes of the half Burren hit two cracking efforts, a stunning trademark McKernan point from 55 metres and another mighty longrange effort from the prolific O'Hare.

While a Paul Devlin free with the last kick of the half left just a point between the sides at the break.

On the resumption Kilcoo pointed twice in as many minutes to ease in front, these scores, both delightful, coming from Jerome Johnston and the on-song Ward.

Still Burren refused to bow to the champions and they too scored super points twice in quick succession - from 'keeper Murdock and from Donal O'Hare.

The match was on a knife-edge.

Who would push on and win it? Well the Magpies know the secret of success and they grabbed three points without reply in a vital five-minute spell. Dylan Ward got the first of these with the second coming from Jerome Johnston, a searing bullet-like drive that was heading for the top corner of the net before a full-stretch Cathal Murdock superbly deflected it over the top. Aaron Morgan got the third from long range.

Donal O'Hare cut the gap to a single point on 43 minutes but that would be their last score until injury time.

Meanwhile Kilcoo closed out the game, aided by another Ward 40-yard point on 46 minutes, while Paul Devlin hit the final Kilcoo score on 56 minutes; and at that stage there were three points between the teams.

In the final 10 minutes as tempers flared referee Paul Faloon was a busy man, dishing out a host of cards.

As well as various yellow cards, Kilcoo substitute James McClean and Paul Devlin received black cards while Burren's Conail McGovern saw red for an off-the-ball challenge on Devlin.

Meanwhile as the minutes ticked down, Burren pressed forward looking for a goal that would bring a replay. Indeed at one stage every player, apart from the Burren 'keeper, was 40-metres from the Kilcoo goal.

But the closest they came to grabbing that equaliser was when O'Hare shot but Darragh O'Hanlon threw his body into the path of the ball.

Deep into injury time Burren substitute Dan McCartan rose in a crowded goalmouth to fist over the bar.

But it wasn't enough with the Magpies triumphing by two points.

Afterwards Pairc Esler was a veritable sea of black and white as happy Kilcoo fans celebrated their sexy six championship wins.


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