Kilcoo GAC footballer Jerome Johnston ahead of the AIB Ulster GAA Football Senior Club Championship Final, which takes place at 3:45pm at Athletic Grounds in Armagh this Sunday, January 16th and will see the Down champions take on Derrygonnelly Harps of Fermanagh. This year’s AIB Club Championships celebrate #TheToughest players in Gaelic Games - those who keep going and persevere no matter what.
Kilcoo GAC footballer Jerome Johnston ahead of the AIB Ulster GAA Football Senior Club Championship Final, which takes place at 3:45pm at Athletic Grounds in Armagh this Sunday, January 16th and will see the Down champions take on Derrygonnelly Harps of Fermanagh. This year’s AIB Club Championships celebrate #TheToughest players in Gaelic Games - those who keep going and persevere no matter what. 

Brotherly honesty keeps Jerome Johnston focused


By John Harrington

Jerome Johnston doesn’t have many bad games for Kilcoo, but, when he does, he’s very quickly made aware of it.

His brothers Ryan and Sheelan will be the first people to point out any failings, and he’s happy to do the same favour for them.

Pride might be briefly injured, but all of them know it’s a mutually beneficial relationship for them all in the long-term to consistently get unvarnished feedback.

“The thing with brothers is that they’ll be totally honest with you,” says Johnston. “Everyone will be totally honest with one another on it and as soon as we come home from a game, I’d go to Mummy and Daddy’s and we’d be straight into analysing the game and sometimes (my partner) Sheryl would say to me ‘why did you go there, you knew that would be the case,’ but I think that’s the best thing is that it’s total honesty.

“If you’re not at it, your family will be the first people to tell you. Now, Mummy is good in that situation, she’ll try to lay out the few positives you might have in a bad game. But that honesty is what you need.

“You don’t need everyone patting you on the back telling you you’re a great fella. Even after a good game, there might be a few things you need to brush up on. And even as brothers, we’d be saying to each other ‘you were silly there.’

“It’s a two-way thing and if you’re analysing games at the house, it is great to get those opinions and there are a number of brothers in our team so I’d say that’s going on in all the houses.

“It’s definitely something we’d feel stands to us in that we can take constructive criticism from another and we can give positive feedback and that as well.”

There are just 11 months between Jerome and his brother Ryan and the two of them have pushed one another to become better throughout their lives.

Jerome Johnston celebrates after scoring a decisive goal for Kilcoo during the AIB Ulster GAA Football Club Senior Championship Semi-Final against Derry champions Glen at the Athletic Grounds in Armagh. 
Jerome Johnston celebrates after scoring a decisive goal for Kilcoo during the AIB Ulster GAA Football Club Senior Championship Semi-Final against Derry champions Glen at the Athletic Grounds in Armagh. 

When a ball was thrown in between them in the back garden things could get hot and heavy fairly quickly, but Johnston wouldn’t have had it any other way.

“Yeah, sometimes a bit over the top,” he says of their sibling rivalry. “But that’s part of it and a few thumps aren’t going to be any harm growing up.

“If your brother does it to you it’ll prepare you for it before you’ll be getting them off someone else. It gets you ready for them.”

Youngest brother Sheelan came along seven and half years after Ryan so he was spared some of that hardship.

Instead he shadowed his brothers wherever they went and learned a lot from watching them play and train.

“I’m sure he did,” says Johnston. “And we’ve got a lot from him as well and his team-mates.

“They were the first boys to win an Ulster title with Kilcoo at under-17. This year he captained Down under-20s to an Ulster title as well so yes, we’re brothers, we’re all different characters, but we’ve learned a lot from each other.”

Sheelan turns 21 this week, and Jerome admits that the extent of the celebrations will be determined by whether or not Kilcoo can defeat Fermanagh champions Derrygonnelly in Sunday’s AIB Ulster Club SFC Final.

“Yeah, I’d say so,” says Johnston. “I know his 19th birthday was the day of the All-Ireland final. That was definitely ruined so hopefully Derrygonnelly don’t ruin his 21st as well.”

That 2020 All-Ireland Final defeat after extra-time to Corofin still feels like a glorious opportunity missed by everyone in Kilcoo, and Johnston admits it’s something they might never fully get over.

“Straight after it, you’re gutted,” he says. “We’ll look back on that in years to come and it is going to hurt and any time you’re beaten in a final, especially an All-Ireland final, it is going to stay with you for the rest of your life.

“I think with Covid, that maybe distracted us away from it - there was so much talk about how people were going to die and all these horrible things were happening and eventually, we were back into the football and the best thing you can do is that, get back into it and play another game.

“At the minute, we’re not thinking about that but I suppose when we finish up, down the line, that’s when we’ll look back on something like that.”