AIB Ulster Club SFC: Kilcoo defeat Derrygonnelly
AIB Ulster Club SFC Semi-Final
KILCOO (DOWN) 1-8 DERRYGONNELLY HARPS (FERMANAGH) 0-9
By Declan Bogue at the Athletic Grounds
Kilcoo's long quest for a Seamus McFerran Cup is within touching distance after they overcame a Derrygonnelly challenge that lacked absolutely nothing in effort and heart, but a sliver of quality that could have made the difference.
With the benefit of the wind in the first half Kilcoo made use of the advantage, but the gap between the sides at the break was narrow, 0-4 to 0-2 in favour of the Down champions.
Derrygonnelly had a real chance of goal in the seventh minute when Lee Jones and Stephen McGullion knitted handpasses together to put Shane McGullion in. His shot was strong but from distance and Kilcoo netminder Martin McCourt watched it coming and acrobatically tipped it round the post with a strong right hand.
Kilcoo set up with a strong defence, 14 men behind the ball when without the ball and when it turned over, had the pace of Eugene Branagan and Ryan Johnston in their half-forward line to get it forward. When that happened, Jerome Johnston's trickery had Harps full-back Tiernan Daly in difficulties.
The second half can be boiled down to two things; Derrygonnelly hit six wides to Kilcoo's zero. And after the Fermanagh men hit three consecutive points to go level on 37 minutes, Daly fouled Ryan Johnston. The free was going to be moved in and while Derrygonnelly defenders conducted an inquest, Kilcoo captain Conor Laverty picked the ball up and took a quick free to Anthony Morgan. He dished off to Aaron Branagan who found the net.
Soon after, a Ryan McEvoy free pushed their lead out to four points.
Derrygonnelly never gave up on their task but things looked very difficult when Lee Jones received his second yellow card on 53 minutes. However, Jerome Johnston who was booked in the same incident, picked up another yellow a minute later to leave both sides on 14 men.
The killer for the Harps was a free on 57 minutes that Conall Jones sliced wide, difficult as it was. They compiled the next three points to come within a single point with another minute or two left to play.
They had their hands on the ball but Declan Cassidy was crowded out, referee Paudie Hughes blew for a free out, and Kilcoo found themselves let off the hook.
They now go on to face Donegal champions Naomh Conaill, who overcame Clontibret in the other semi-final on Saturday night.
Scorers for Kilcoo: Aaron Branagan 1-1, P Devlin, R McEvoy 0-2 (2fs), E Branagan, R Johnston, J Johnston 0-1 each
Scorers for Derrygonnelly: G Jones 0-3 (2fs_ J Love, G McGinley, Stephen McGullion, D Cassidy, K Cassidy 0-1 each, C Jones 0-1 (f).
KILCOO: M McCourt; N Branagan, Aidan Branagan, N McEvoy; Anthony Morgan, Aaron Branagan, D Branagan; Aaron Morgan, D Ward; E Branagan, P Devlin, R Johnston; R McEvoy, J Johnston, C Laverty
Subs: J Clarke for Anthony Morgan (47), J McClean for Aaron Morgan (56), S Johnston for N McEvoy (57).
DERRYGONNELLY: J Kelly; J Love, T Daly, M Jones; E McHugh, Shane McGullion, G McGinley; R Jones, C Jones; L Jones, Stephen McGullion, D Cassidy; G Jones, K Cassidy, G McGovern
Subs: G McKenna for G McGovern (42), R McHugh for K Cassidy (47), N Gallagher for G McGinley (56), A McKenna for E McHugh (54).
REFEREE: Paudie Hughes (Crossmaglen).