Ulster final scoreline harsh on Derrygonnelly, says Kilcoo coach Conle…

Ulster final scoreline harsh on Derrygonnelly, says Kilcoo coach Conle…

The celebrations were surprisingly muted as Kilcoo cantered home to land their second Ulster title with a thumping 3-10 to 0-3 win at the Athletic Grounds.

It’s hard to tell if it was the way the match petered out, the stand-offish character of the fare or the effects of Covid.

But the speeches of winning joint-captains, Conor Laverty and Aidan Branagan were low meaningful too and reflected the mood as the men in black and white made it back-to-back Ulster titles.

Perhaps it is the times we live in, or maybe Kilcoo are a side on a mission.

Their next stop off is an All-Ireland semi-final encounter with Cork and Munster champions St. Finbarr’s on Saturday, January 29.

Get by that one and they’ll obtain a second All-Ireland final identify, following their additional-time defeat by Corofin back in early 2020 – the last time the competition was played.

They made short work of Derrygonnelly, who were aiming to be the first Fermanagh side to land a senior provincial title at club or county level, this afternoon.

They did keep up Kilcoo under control for a while, trailing 0-4 to 0-2 on 28 minutes, but Daryl Branagan’s goal just before half time meant they had to rethink their wall across the 45.

In the second half, as they pushed on looking for goals, the Down champions picked them off with late goals from the Johnston brothers, Jerome and Shealan, putting the cap on a 16 point victory.

But we were playing out time long before that as Derrygonnelly lacked the firepower to cause their opponents any real problems.

“I suppose the way the scoreline finished out and the harder Derrygonnelly pushed to try and get something, they left gaps at the back and they got caught for a associate of goals,” said Kilcoo coach Conleith Gilligan.

“It was very unfair on them. Scorelines like that are not something those players deserve given what they have given by Fermanagh and by the competitions.

“Nobody really likes that. When the game was kind of gone a wee bit towards the end, it does leave it a wee bit muted, especially in a final that was really expected to be a lot closer.”

There’s every chance they might win one or two more in addition with the injection of young blood like last year’s Down under-20 captain, Shealan Johnston, Ceilum Doherty and hard running complete back, Ryan McEvoy.

Derrygonnelly’s Declan Cassidy dejected (Image: ©INPHO/Bryan Keane)

The game itself won’t live long in the memory.

A 16 point defeat was sore on Derrygonnelly, but the writing was on the wall well out from the final whistle, and perhaps already in the latter stages of the first half.

Ryan Jones was Derrygonnelly’s only scorer until Conall Jones hit a late point, their first in 38 minutes, as they went in search of goals with the game drifting away from them.

Kicoo struggled to punch holes in Derrygonnelly’s 15 man defence in the first half, with very little physical contact in the game bar the strange long kickout and turnover.

The winners tended to keep the ball on the edge and avoid contact and possible turnovers so there wasn’t much for the supporters at the Athletic Grounds to get too excited about.

Gary McKenna’s point effort almost sneaked under the Kilcoo crossbar on 19 minutes, but rebounded off the woodwork.

That would have given Derrygonnelly a one point rule, but they were living off scraps as Kilcoo dominated possession.

They only managed one point from play though in the opening half hour, a beauty from excellent wing back Micheal Rooney, who shot over from way out on the left wing.

KILCOO : N Kane (0-1, f), N Branagan, R McEvoy (0-2, 2fs), A Branagan, M Rooney (0-2), D Branagan (1-0), E Branagan, D Ward, A Moran, C Doherty, J Johnston (1-0), S Johnston (1-0), C Laverty, R Johnston, P Devlin (0-5, 3fs).

SUBS : A Morgan for R Johnston 52mins, F McGreevy for Ward 57mins, A Branagan for Laverty 57mins, P Greenan for Morgan 60mins, S Og McCusker for S Johnston 61mins,

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

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

REFEREE : M McNally (Monaghan)

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