Ulster club SFC final: Kilcoo make the breakthrough

December 01, 2019

Kilcoo's Daryl Branagan kicks the opening score against Naomh Conaill. ©INPHO/Evan Logan.

Kilcoo (Down) 2-11

Naomh Conaill (Donegal) 2-9

Mickey Moran worked the oracle again as Kilcoo finally got their hands on the Seamus McFerran Cup with a hard-fought victory over Naomh Conaill in Omagh.

Three years after plotting their downfall as Slaughtneil manager in the Ulster club SFC final, the veteran manager is the toast of Kilcoo after they became the first Down club since the great Burren team of the 1980s to secure provincial football success. As we have come to expect of Naomh Conaill over the last couple of months, they never gave up, but Kilcoo weren't to be denied in what was their third final appearance since 2012, having led from most of the game.

Winners of eight Down SFC titles in the last 11 years, Kilcoo led by seven points thanks to Aidan Branagan's goal, only for the Glenties men to reply with majors from Charles McGuinness and Jeaic McKelvey late in the first half which left the minimum in it at half-time, 2-4 to 1-8.

Daryl Branagan bagged Kilcoo's second goal eight minutes into the second half and despite going 21 minutes without a score after that, they held on for an historic victory which paves the way for an All-Ireland semi-final meeting with the winners of next Sunday's Leinster final between Ballyboden St Enda's and Eire Og early in the New Year.

Brothers Daryl and Eugene Branagan were on target early on for the winners, while efforts at the other end from captain Ciaran Thompson, Charles Gallagher and Eunan Doherty meant it was level pegging, 0-3 apiece, after 13 minutes.

Kilcoo joint-captains Conor Laverty and Aidan Branagan lift the Ulster club SFC trophy. ©INPHO/Evan Logan.

The Magpies then enjoyed a fine spell which produced five unanswered points from the Johnston brothers, Ryan and Jerome, as well as a Paul Devlin free. When Daryl Branagan, Conor Laverty and Jerome Johnston combined to set up Aidan Branagan for a tap in goal, the winners were suddenly eight points up, but playing route one football, the Donegal men hit back with quickfire majors from McGuinness and McKelvey to leave it all to play for in the second half.

The half-time whistle couldn't have come at a better time for Kilcoo who regrouped before resuming with points from Ryan McEvoy and Laverty and their second goal from Daryl Branagan.

Now trailing by six points, Naomh Conaill dug deep again and grabbed the next four points per Ciaran Thompson and Ethan O'Donnell to reduce the deficit to two with 10 minutes remaining.

Former Donegal star Anthony Thompson kicked a booming point to leave the minimum in it before Darryl Branagan ended Kilcoo's scoring drought and sealed a famous victory.

Kilcoo - M McCourt; N Branagan, Aaron Branagan, N McEvoy; S Johnston, D Ward, R Johnston (0-2); A Morgan, Aidan Branagan (1-0); D Branagan (1-2), P Devlin (0-2, 1f), E Branagan (0-2); R McEvoy (0-1f), J Johnston (0-1), C Laverty (0-1). Subs: J Clarke for E Branagan, F McGreevy for R McEvoy.

Naomh Conaill - S McGrath; U Doherty, AJ Gallagher, K McGettigan; E O’Donnell (0-2), A Thompson (0-1), E Waide; C Thompson (0-4, 3f), L McLoone; E McGettigan, E Doherty (0-1); J McKelvey (1-0), C McGuinness (1-1), K Gallagher. Subs: M Boyle for AJ Gallagher, D Molloy for K Gallagher, N Byrne for C McGuinness, K Gallagher for U Doherty.

Referee - S Hurson.

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