Kilcoo to the ‘Point

Kilcoo to the ‘Point

9 October 2019

ONLY a thin blue line stands between Kilcoo and a league and championship double.

It's not officers of the law, though, who will battle it out with the Magpies at Pairc Esler on Sunday in an eagerly-awaited Morgan Fuels SFC final, but the blue of Warrenpoint.

Kilcoo will be appearing in their 22nd final since the Frank O'Hare Cup was first played for in 1903 with Warrenpoint taking part in their showdown for the ninth time, having won the competition on three occasions.

The last time Warrenpoint contested the final was in 1978 when they lost out 0-11 to 1-6 against Pat Oakes' star-studded Downpatrick side.

Coincidentally Downpatrick's winning point on that occasion was scored by my younger brother Joe, although the local newspapers at the time gave the score to his twin brother, Fred. I am now glad to put the record straight after all these years.

The sides have met twice in the league this season, drawing 1-10 to 1-10 at Pairc Eoghan Rua and Kilcoo won the return game in Warrenpoint 0-13 to 1-8.

The mood music in Kilcoo this season has been good.

Their 0-9 to 0-4 win over Clonduff in the league last Wednesday night clinched the ACFL Division 1 crown, last lifted by Mickey Moran's side in 2015 and they are even more intent on adding the Frank O'Hare Cup on Sunday.

Losing out to Burren in last year's decider was a big blow to Kilcoo, but they have put that reversal behind them with the exact same squad of players.

What you see with Kilcoo is what you get.

They have a unique work ethic and everything revolves around the team as a unit. No one player has a bigger or more important job than anyone else. 

They are in this together and they have an unfaltering belief in their own ability and work on the motto that if you fail to prepare, prepare to fail.

Martin McCourt has dislodged the experienced Niall Kane in goal for the last few games and could well hold on to the number one spot for the final.

One thing for certain, bar injury, is that the five Branagan brothers will start, four in defence, with Eugene lining out at corner forward, but given a licence to roam.

They epitomise everything good about Kilcoo. Honest, resolute, determined and committed.

Ryan McEvoy, Dylan Ward and Aaron Morgan should be tasked with winning the ball in the middle of the park and supplying Paul Devlin, Conor Laverty and the Johnston brothers Ryan and Jerome — not forgetting younger brother Shealan when he is called upon. 

Kilcoo also have serious strength on the bench and in addition to Johnston the younger, they can call on Anthony Morgan, Paddy Devlin, Sean O'Hanlon, James McClean and Felim McGreevy,.

Warrenpoint have made their way through some tricky ties unbeaten and along the way have accounted for An Riocht (2-7 to 0-11), Ballyholland (0-19 to 1-10), Longstone (3-10 to 1-4) and Ballyholland in the semi-final, 2-18 to 0-4.

Manager Niall McAleenan has the nucleus of the squad that won the IFC title in 2014 and has also introduced some talented teenagers.

He will rely on Adam Lynch, Pat Murdock, Ryan McAleenan, John Boyle, Eoghan Byrne and Ciaran McCartan to keep the Kilcoo attack quiet, bit few defences ever manage it.  

The 'Point can't afford to play in a defensive manner come Sunday. They must attack Kilcoo and utilise their magical set of forwards.

McAleenan's men have shipped a lot of scores in the league and to invite Kilcoo on to them would not be advisable.

That's why going at Kilcoo from the off and getting top scorer Ross McGarry involved early on is essential.

McGarry is the one player who has the ability and temperament to unsettle Kilcoo.

He is not the biggest full forward in the game, but he has pace, bravery and rarely misses in front of goal.

He is undoubtedly Warrenpoint's ace in the pack and along with the Boyle brothers adds a touch of class to the 'Point's challenge.

McGarry relies heavily on Donagh McAleenan, Ruairi McCormick, Aaron Magee, Ryan Mallon and Ryan Boyle and this unit must be firing on all cylinders if Warrenpoint are to cause a shock win.

Kilcoo are red hot favourites at 1/3 with a generous 2/1 being offered on Warrenpoint. Bookmakers rarely get it wrong and it's difficult to see anything other than a Kilcoo victory and the start of another crack at the elusive Ulster title for the Magpies.