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Jerome Johnston impressed for Kilcoo against Magherafelt at Pairc Esler.
Jerome Johnston impressed for Kilcoo against Magherafelt at Pairc Esler.

AIB Ulster Club SFC: Kilcoo experience proves vital

AIB Ulster Club SFC Quarter-Final


By Paul McIntyre at Pairc Esler

Down champions Kilcoo came out on top against Derry’s Magherafelt by five points to book a place in the Ulster Senior Club Championship.

The Mourne Men are no strangers to the Ulster circuit and that bit more big game experience was to prove vital as Magherafelt were visiting the provincial series for the first time since 1978.

That big game knowhow helped Kilcoo race into a three point lead in the opening five minutes through Aaron Branagan, Ryan McEvoy and Daryl Branagan as the Derry champions struggled to break down a water tight Kilcoo defence in the opening exchanges.

Eventually on nine minutes they were able to trouble the scoreboard when Shane Heavron got in behind the Kilcoo defence to link up with Patrick McLarnon to set up Emmett McGuckin for a point that was nearly a goal, but for the finger tips of Martin McCourt in the Kilcoo goal.

This settled the Magherafelt nerves and as the first quarter drew to a close the sides were level at three points a piece, and as the game approached the half time break there was still nothing between the teams as they equally shared eight points, but a Paul Devlin free gave Kilcoo slender one point lead at the break, 0-5 to 0-4.

Conor Kearns point in the first minute of the second half had the sides level again but Kilcoo were then took over and with playmaker Conor Laverty on top of his game, the Down champions lead by five point by the 37th minute.

This was thanks mainly to Jerome Johnston’s goal. Following an assist by Laverty, he shot low and hard into the corner giving Lynch no chance.

The points then followed for Kilcoo with Johnston adding to his major before Laverty himself got on the score sheet, and with 10 minutes remaining Kilcoo lead by six points, 1-10 to 0-07.

Magherafelt threw caution to the wind in the closing stages and they thought they were thrown a lifeline when McGuckin played in corner back Simon McErlain who finished low past McCourt in the Kilcoo goal, but much to the frustration of the Magherafelt players and management, referee Joe McQuillan had already blown for a Magherfelt free.

Again, they were denied a goal in injury time when McCourt saved smartly from McGuckin’s shot but it was to be Kilcoo’s day and they now advance to the penultimate stage.

Scorers for Kilcoo: J. Johnston 1-1, E. Branagan 0-2, C. Laverty 0-2 P. Devlin 0-2 (2fs), A. Branagan, D. Branagan, R. McEvoy, A. Morgan 0-1 each.

Scorers for Magherafelt: E. McGuckin 0-3 (1f), C. Murphy 0-2, C. Kearns 0-2, J. Monaghan 0-1, S. Heavron 0-1 (f).

KILCOO: M. McCourt, N. Branagan, Aidan, Branagan, N. McEvoy, A. Morgan, Aaron Branagan, M. Rooney, D. Branagan, R. McEvoy, E. Branagan, P. Devlin, R. Johnston, D. Ward, J. Johnston, C. Laverty.

Subs: J. Clarke for R. Johnston (45), S. Johnston for M. Rooney (51).

MAGHERAFELT: O. Lynch, S, McErlain, D. O’Neill, G. Lupari, C. McCluskey, F. Duffin, C. Kearns, J. Monaghan, D. Heavron, P. McLarnon, S. Heavron, J. Young, A. McElhone, C. Murphy, E. McGuckin.

Subs: M. Lynch for P. McLarnon (40), D. Martin for A. McElhone (41), C. Rafferty for J. Young (44), P. O’Kane for C. Kearns (49) (BC), J. Keenan for G. Lupari (50), M. Higgins for S. Heavron (51).

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