Kilcoo’s fitness pays dividends in extra-time as they wear down St Finbarr’s

All-Ireland semi-final thriller goes to extra-time as Down champions pull through

Kilcoo (Down) 1-18 St Finbarr’s (Cork) 1-13 (aet)

Kilcoo wore down St Finbarr’s to remain on course for that elusive All-Ireland club football title following a gripping semi-final at O’Moore Park, Portlaoise, on Saturday.

The Down and Ulster champions’ fitness levels helped them dominate extra-time, outscoring the Cork and Munster equivalent by 0-5 to 0-2 during the first period.

And while Colm Barrett made it a two-point game after 76 minutes, Kilcoo finished impressively, claiming the closing three points, including a pair from Ceilum Docherty.

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Frustration played a part with 'Barr's finishing with 13 players following the dismissals of Jamie Burns and substitute Michael Shields near the end.

The sides were level six times during the regulation hour, which finished in a welter of excitement and controversy.

Kildare referee Brendan Cawley made a huge call against 'Barr's defender Alan O'Connor following his challenge on Paul Devlin three minutes into the four added on for stoppages.

But, before Devlin could take his free, which would have been the winner, Kilcoo substitute Aidan Brannigan got involved with another replacement, Adam Lyne, and was shown a red card.

The referee duly reversed his original decision and threw the ball up before signalling for full-time seconds later.

There was also a sensational start to the contest, Kilcoo's Ryan Johnston blasting in a stunning goal only four minutes though they went 19 minutes without adding another.

The reliable place-kicking of Steven Sherlock get the 'Barr's in touch and they received a major tonic with a goal after 27 minutes.

Sherlock and David O'Brien pressurised Daryl Branagan from a short kick-out and created the opportunity for Eoghan McGreevey to score for a 1-5 to 1-3 interval lead.

The second half was thrilling, the sides level five times with Sherlock holding his nerve from in front of the Kilcoo supporters to nail an equaliser two minutes into injury-time.

It became apparent, though, that the greater fitness, experience and craft of the Ulster champions was beginning to tell in extra-time as the ’Barr’s challenge understandably weakened.

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

Subs: Anthony Morgan for Laverty (43 mins), A Branagan for Aaron Morgan (56, J Clarke on in extra-time, Laverty for R Johnston (69), MacDarragh Hynes for E Branagan (70), T Fettes for Rooney (71).

ST FINBARR'S: J Kerins; S Ryan, J Burns, C Scully; C Lyons, B Hennessy, A O'Connor; I Maguire, E Comyns; D O'Brien, S Sherlock (0-10, 10 frees), B Hayes; C Myers-Murray (0-1), E McGreevey (1-1, one mark), C McCrickard.

Subs: C Barrett (0-1) for O'Brien and E Dennehy for Myers-Murray ( both 40 mins), M Shields for McGreevey (49), A Lyne for McCrickard (57), L Hannigan for Comyns (60+1), B O'Connell for Scully and C Walsh for Hayes (both 69), McGreevey for O'Connor (75).

Referee: B Cawley (Kildare).