By Niall Gartland
KINGSCOURT Stars are a familiar presence on county final day in Cavan.
Since its foundation back in 1890, Kingscourt have appeared in 16 senior championship finals in Cavan football, coming out on top on 11 different occasions.
They’ve been a recent phenomenon (relatively speaking), with only one of those final berths coming before 1980, that being all the way back in 1921.
The club has produced many notable players down the years and their most well-known player in this era is Padraig Faulkner, an all-action footballer whose father Pat was a key cog of their great team of the eighties and early nineties.
Another Kingscourt alumni worth mentioning is Jim Reilly, high up the list of the greatest Cavan footballers of the last 50 years.
In the here and now, they are setting their sights on a 12th championship title as they hone their preparations for Sunday’s county showpiece against Gowna.
It’s not their first rodeo – they lost out in the 2020 final replay to Crosserlough and they can also call upon a scattering of players who claimed a comeback victory over Castlerahan in 2015, players like goalkeeper James Farrelly, Barry Reilly and the aforementioned Padraig Faulker.
The club is situated on the Cavan-Meath border but they’re managed by a Monaghan man, Owen Lennon, one of the leading protagonists on the Farney side that won Ulster titles in 2013 and 2015.
It’s his second season in charge of the team and he learnt a few lessons from the first. They started up training earlier this time around and their hard work has, more or less, paid off. The Stars reached the Division One final for the first time since 2015 albeit they were on the receiving end of a chastening defeat to a souped up Crosserlough, and they’ve done extremely well in the championship, finishing top of the group stages and overcoming Ramor at the second time of asking at the semi-final juncture to make the final.
Speaking last Friday afternoon, Lennon commended the attitude of his players who have done everything asked of them in their quest to get their hands on the Oliver Plunkett Cup.
“Kingscourt are a great club with a great tradition. They’re genuine football people and I’ve never had one bit of hassle with the lads since I’ve come on board.
“The players do whatever’s asked of them whether on the training pitch or on match day. They’re mad for success, they haven’t had any in a few years. They got to the final a few years back and they’re glad to be back but we’re well aware of what we’re coming up against when we face Gowna.”
Their opponents Gowna produced their best performance of the season in the semi-finals as they upped the ante in the second-half and tore asunder a talented Crosserlough side. On the back of that victory the reigning champions have been installed as 2/5 favourites to retain their title, and Lennon knows it’ll take something special to usurp them.
Lennon said: “That was definitely the performance of the year from any club team in Cavan. Gowna were excellent and if they play like that against us, it’s going to be very difficult.
“They’re a really good championship team with a notable tradition as well. We just want to get a performance out of ourselves first and foremost and then we’ll see what happens after that.
“We really need to match their fitness and intensity because they absolutely cut through Crosserlough the last day. We’re going to have to be very good defensively to keep them out.”
Asked if he was surprised by manner of their resounding win over Crosserlough, Lennon pointed out the similarities with Gowna’s championship campaign last year, where they seemed to get better and better with every game.
“I knew it was two good teams going at it and when Gowna hit the quarter-final stages last year they really upped it, and you’re seeing that happen again this year. I’m sure they’ll want to replicate that against us and it’s going to be a tough job to try and stop them.”
By contrast Kingscourt needed two goes to get the better of 2021 champions Ramor in the semi-final, but they’ll be pleased by the way they saw out the replay, finishing strongly to claim a 1-12 to 1-8 victory.
“Our performances up until now haven’t been emphatic but we’ve been getting over the line and playing for 20 minutes here and 20 minutes there. But we’re delighted to be in the final surely.
“In the replay against Ramor we were playing into a bit of a breeze in the first-half, we probably played too deep so we pressed up a bit higher in the second-half and finished quite strongly thankfully. We just changed our system a wee bit to press up a bit higher but we’re well-aware we’re going to have to play better to overcome a formidable Gowna side.”