Aaron Morgan, Kilcoo, and Ben Shovlin, Kilmacud Crokes, during the AIB All Ireland Club SFC Final at Croke Park.
Aaron Morgan, Kilcoo, and Ben Shovlin, Kilmacud Crokes, during the AIB All Ireland Club SFC Final at Croke Park.

AIB All Ireland Club SFC Final: Kilcoo stage dramatic comeback

AIB All Ireland Club SFC Final


After extra-time

By Paul Keane at Croke Park

Jerome Johnston's 81st minute goal secured a dramatic AIB All-Ireland club football title success for Kilcoo, securing a maiden win for the Down club.

Mickey Moran's men were heartbroken two years ago when they lost the final to Corofin after extra-time and with this game also going to extra-time it looked as if they'd be cruelly frustrated again when they trailed by two points with time almost up.

Kilmacud Crokes, chasing a third title themselves, simply couldn't hold onto that lead though and when they were turned over in their own defence panic ensued as Kilcoo worked a goal chance that ended with Ryan Johnston's blocked shot falling kindly to Jerome Johnston who fired in from close range in the 81st minute.

The goalscorer picked up an injury in the course of scoring and had to be substituted but it was certainly worth it as the Ulster champions, dominant throughout the last decade in their own county, finally came good on the national stage.

In a low scoring and tense final, Johnston finished with 1-1 while their other three-pointer was an own goal midway through the second-half of normal time that hauled Kilcoo back after initially falling seven points behind Crokes.

A cagey game between two tactically excellent teams more than happy to punish eachother on the break was forecast so it was no surprise to see things pan out that way.

What was surprising was that Kilcoo scored just two first-half points and hit the interval trailing by 0-2 to 0-08.

That was partly down to the initial excellence and efficiency of a well drilled Crokes side that showed all their professionalism when stifling Padraig Pearses in the All-Ireland semi-final last month.

But some of Kilcoo's difficulties were self imposed and the Ulster champions blew about 1-3 worth of decent scoring opportunities in the first-half.

Veteran attacker Conor Laverty, who scored 0-2 overall, carved out a goal chance in the eighth minute after being picked out by Eugene Branagan but while he escaped the attentions of Dan O'Brien, he couldn't beat Crokes goalkeeper Conor Ferris.

Dylan Ward missed a couple of point opportunities, Devlin cannoned a shot off the post while Hawk-Eye ruled that a close range free from Ryan McEvoy was off target.

Crokes were patient in their attacking play, happy to bide their time and create openings for the likes of Dara Mullin and Shane Horan to split the posts after multiple passes.

Another strategy from Crokes was to pump high ball in on top of Hugh Kenny who, along with Aidan Jones, was a late addition to their lineup.

Mullin pulled one of those high balls out of the air for a 27th minute mark that he converted, helping the Stillorgan men to open up that six-point half-time lead.

Craig Dias, excellent for Crokes, added a point after the restart and suddenly Kilcoo had a mountain to climb. To their credit, they did just that with a superb fight-back throughout the third quarter that climaxed with a bizarre 45th minute goal.

Kilcoo goalkeeper Niall Kane wheeled away in delight after his kick from a '45 deflected in off a Crokes defender.

With Devlin and Laverty also scoring points, Kilcoo trailed by just a point in the 48th minute.

Cian O'Connor, Crokes' supersub in recent months, restored a two-point gap but late Kilcoo scores from Devlin, the equaliser coming in the 60th minute, forced extra-time at 1-7 to 0-10.

It remained deadlocked after 10 minutes of extra-time, Anthony Morgan and O'Connor scoring a point each for their teams.

Crokes thought they'd finally broken Kilcoo when subs Callum Pearson and O'Connor then pointed but the Down men refused to yield and Johnston provided the late magic with his match-winning goal.

Kilcoo scorers: Jerome Johnston 1-1, Paul Devlin 0-4 (0-3f), Niall Kane 1-0 (45), Conor Laverty 0-2, Anthony Morgan 0-1.

Kilmacud Crokes scorers: Cian O'Connor 0-3 (0-2f), Shane Horan 0-2, Craig Dias 0-2, Dara Mullin 0-2 (0-1m), Shane Cunningham 0-1 (0-1m), Andrew McGowan 0-1, Tom Fox 0-1 (0-1f), Callum Pearson 0-1.

Kilcoo: Niall Kane; Niall Branagan, Ryan McEvoy, Aaron Branagan; Miceal Rooney, Daryl Branagan, Eugene Branagan; Dylan Ward, Aaron Morgan; Shealin Johnston, Jerome Johnston, Ceilum Doherty; Paul Devlin, Ryan Johnston, Conor Laverty.

Subs: Anthony Morgan for Ryan Johnston 35, Aidan Branagan for Aaron Morgan 47-f/t, blood, Ryan Johnston for Shealin Johnston 58, Shealin Johnston for Rooney h/t e/t, Justin Clarke for Doherty 77, Sean Og McCusker for Jerome Johnston 81.

Kilmacud Crokes: Conor Ferris; Michael Mullin, Dan O'Brien, Ross McGowan; Andrew McGowan, Rory O'Carroll, Cillian O'Shea; Ben Shovlin, Craig Dias; Shane Horan, Aidan Jones, Dara Mullin; Hugh Kenny, Shane Cunningham, Tom Fox.

Subs: Cian O'Connor for Fox 42, Conor Casey for Horan 54, Anthony Quinn for Jones 54, Callum Pearson for Kenny 54, Conor Kinsella for Dias 61. Theo Clancy for Michael Mullin e/t, Jones for Ross McGowan 66, Mark O'Leary for Cunningham 70, Horan for Dara Mullin h/t e/t.

Referee: Sean Hurson (Tyrone).