Kilcoo retain Ulster title with dominant win over Derrygonnelly

The Magpies simply owned the ball all afternoon at the Athletic Grounds

Kilcoo’s Aidan Branagan and Conor Laverty lift the trophy after their Ulster final win. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Kilcoo’s Aidan Branagan and Conor Laverty lift the trophy after their Ulster final win. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

 

Kilcoo 3-10 Derrygonnelly 0-3

Kilcoo’s grip on the Seamus McFerran Cup got even tighter after the reigning champions ruthlessly took care of first time finalists Derrygonnelly in a one sided Ulster final at the Athletic Grounds.

Having captured the Ulster title for the first time before the pandemic, they were in no mood to relinquish their hold on Ulster, despite no competition last season. The team known as the Magpies simply owned the ball all afternoon at the Athletic Grounds in Armagh.

With that endless supply of possession, the final was a procession. The Down champions ground Derrygonnelly down, waited for the openings and clinically took their chances. Darryl Branagan, Ceilum Doherty and Shealan Johnston ran in three piercing goals.

The timing of Darryl Branagan’s first goal was a crushing blow for the Fermanagh champions. With half time in their sights, and still in the game, with the scores poised 0-4 to 0-2, Derrygonnelly would have been pleased with their first half efforts.

Instead, quick hands from Ceilum Doherty and once again a sublime unlocking pass from Conor Laverty found a late surging Branagan. A double side step later, past two purple and gold defenders made the finish easy for the half back, who was a late addition to the side.

The varying speed of the attack between the two sides was apparent early on. Kilcoo, happy to walk the ball up the field with numerous players happy to play the point guard role on the perimeters. Derrygonnelly’s method of attack on the other hand, opted towards the direct and fast approach.

What transpired was trench warfare.

Both sides parked their full compliments behind the ball, but Ryan Jones gave Sean Flanagan’s side their only lead in the final after five minutes but Kilcoo were happy to stick it out in the possession stakes. Miceal Rooney put them ahead but a quick free kick nearly stunned Mickey Moran’s side when Gary McKenna rattled the crossbar.

That only seemed to inject life into the Magpies as they outscored Derrrygonnelly 1-3 to 0-1 in the run into half time. Paul Devlin stamped his class on proceedings with a neat brace to give Derrygonnelly an insurmountable mountain to climb.

Derrygonnelly longed for a score to allow them to breathe but long fruitless punts into Conall and Garvan Jones only sucked further oxygen from their efforts. It must be said that Ryan McEvoy’s display at full back in dealing with the aerial bombs showed a further extension of Kilcoo’s evolution.

The second half was more about risk. Derrygonnelly had to advance more, which suited Kilcoo and their game management. Switching and shifting players across the field to tire legs and minds with no cover at the back meant it was only a matter of time.

That sense of hazard meant there was a ragged feel to the showpiece’s third quarter and Ceilum Doherty soon would find the net.

Just moments earlier, Jerome Johnston stung Jonathan McGurn’s palms with a low drilled shot but Doherty’s scuffed finish off the deck after Laverty failed to claim a long delivery from Devlin typified that said raggedness.

Kilcoo could enjoy the occasion even further when Shealan Johnston found the net three minutes later from a rapid move directly from a McGurn kick out.

Having gone 36 minutes without a score, Derrygonnelly’s Conall Jones landed a free, but Devlin and Rooney had the final say on Kilcoo’s second Ulster title. Aidan Branagan and Conor Laverty lifted the Cup with a mass of bobble headed Kilcoo youngsters at their feet and on the shoulders of their giants.

KILCOO: N Kane (0-1 45’); N Branagan, R McEvoy (0-2 frees), Aaron Branagan; E Branagan, D Branagan (1-0), M Rooney (0-2); D Ward, Aaron Morgan; S Johnston (1-0), J Johnston, C Doherty (1-0); C Laverty, R Johnston, P Devlin (0-5, 0-3 frees).

Subs: Anthony Morgan for R Johnston (52 mins), Aidan Branagan for Ward (56 mins), F McGreevy for Laverty (56 mins), P Greenan for Aaron Morgan (59 mins), S Óg McCusker for S Johnston (61 mins).

DERRYGONNELLY: J McGurn; O Smyth, T Daly, A Jones; D Cassidy, M Jones, Lee Jones; Stephen McGuillon, R Jones (0-2); Leigh Jones, E McHugh, Shane McGullion; G Jones, C Jones (0-1 free), G McKenna.

Subs: C Burns for Smyth (41 mins), G McGovern for Leigh Jones (47 mins), Rian McGovern for Lee Jones (55mins), Ronan McGovern for McKenna (57 mins), P Ward for G Jones (59mins).

Referee: M McNally (Corduff).

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