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Eugene Branagan, Kilcoo, and Conal Keaney, Ballyboden St Enda's, during the AIB All Ireland Club Football Semi-Final at Kingspan Breffni.
Eugene Branagan, Kilcoo, and Conal Keaney, Ballyboden St Enda's, during the AIB All Ireland Club Football Semi-Final at Kingspan Breffni.

AIB All Ireland Club SFC S-F: Kilcoo claim victory

AIB All Ireland Senior Club Football Championship Semi-Final


By Paul Fitzpatrick at Kingspan Breffni

Down champions Kilcoo marched on to their first All-Ireland Club SFC final as they held off a strong finish from Ballyboden in a hard-fought semi-final clash at a wintry Kingspan Breffni.

Managed by Derrymen Mickey Moran and Conleith Gilligan, they showed the hallmarks of a well-prepared outfit. For one thing, the winners were slightly more clinical in front of the posts, which proved crucial; they created a handful of goal chances and buried one in each half to sink the warm favourites.

The Ulster representatives were in front by two, 1-5 to 0-6, at the end of an intriguing first half. While Ballyboden enjoyed the lion’s share of the possession in the first quarter, the Magpies were, in a way, content to let them have it.

They flooded lots of bodies back and executed their game plan to perfection. When they forced a turnover, their handling was impeccable as they managed to bypass the Ballyboden press, repeatedly working the ball to the middle third where Ryan Johnston and Jerome Johnston were able to inject pace and stretch the Dublin side’s defence.

Early on, the exchanges were cagey. In gloomy conditions – the floodlights were on from mid-afternoon at the Cavan Town venue – the sides spent the first five minutes feeling each other out before Paul Devlin opened the scoring for Kilcoo after good work from Conor Laverty.

’Boden hit the front for the first time in the contest when Ryan Basquel nailed a tricky free and the evergreen Conal Keaney got on the end of a Declan O’Mahony pass and drilled over from 20 metres.

A Ryan McEvoy free levelled matters before Keaney picked out Basquel with a perfect pass and the full-forward popped over again to make it 0-3 to 0-2.

But Kilcoo levelled at the end of the first quarter with a free from Devlin and then went through the gears, with their speed up top causing Anthony Rainbow’s side problems.

On 21 minutes, they struck for an excellent goal. A high ball was cleverly flicked down by Conor Laverty to Aidan Branagan; he released Ryan Johnston and the speedster’s finish was exceptional.

Colm Basquel and Paul Devlin traded frees before Kilcoo strung a superb move together, breaking out of defence in trademark fashion before Aaron Morgan supplied a classy finish to put four between them for the first time.

Ballyboden finished the half well with a brace of frees from Ryan Basquel and, on the restart, they moved within one when Kieran Kennedy spun over a beauty with the outside of the boot.

But Kilcoo were still managing to punch holes in their defence at the other end. A goal chance went a-begging but they made sure of the next one. Dylan Ward’s fisted point attempt struck an upright and fell perfectly into the arms of Daryl Branagan and the Man of the Match made no mistake with a cool finish.

That made it a five-point game and it could have been all over but for a cracking save from Daragh Gogan. As they showed in the Leinster final, Ballyboden never give up and they camped in front of the Kilcoo goals for much of the closing stages.

They were rewarded with frees from the Basquel brothers and a point for sub Warren Egan but Shealan Johnston clipped over to keep the scoreboard ticking at the other end.

Ballyboden lost Michael Daragh Macauley and sub Aran Waters to black cards but they kept on coming.

However, a couple of uncharacteristic wides from Ryan Basquel didn’t help the Saints’ cause as Kilcoo weathered a heavy storm. Deep in injury time, however, they countered and Ryan McEvoy took responsibility, landing an inspirational score.

His fist pump afterwards said it all – Kilcoo, at long last, were heading for Croker.

Scorers for Kilcoo: Ryan Johnston 1-0, Daryl Branagan 1-0, Paul Devlin 0-3 (2f), Ryan McEvoy 0-3 (2fs), Shealan Johnston 0-1, Aaron Morgan 0-1.

Scorers for Ballyboden: Ryan Basquel 0-6 (5fs), Colm Basquel 0-3 (3fs), Conal Keaney 0-1, Warren Egan 0-1.

KILCOO: Martin McCourt, Niall Branagan, Ryan McEvoy, Niall McEvoy, Eugene Branagan, Aaron Branagan, Daryl Branagan, Aaron Morgan, Aidan Branagan, Dylan Ward, Paul Devlin, Ryan Johnston, Shealan Johnston, Jerome Johnston, Conor Laverty.

Subs: Justin Clarke for D Branagan (BC, 55 mins), Felim McGreevy for Ward (60+3).

BALLYBODEN ST ENDA'S: Darragh Gogan, Bob Dwan, Shane Clayton, Cathal Flaherty, Kieran Kennedy, Robbie McDaid, Brian Bobbett, Michael Darragh Macauley, Declan O’Mahoney, Darren O’Reilly, Colm Basquel, Alan Flood, Ross McGarry, Ryan Basquel, Conal Keaney.

Subs: Aran Waters for Bobbett (36 mins), Tom Hayes for McGarry (38), Darragh Nelson for Waters (BC, 41), Warren Egan for Flood (48), James Holland for Macauley (BC, 52), Seamus Ó Maidín for O’Reilly (53).

REFEREE: Derek O’Mahoney.

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