By Shaun Casey
FORMER Donegal defender Karl Lacey managed Kilcoo to their 11th county title in 12 seasons last weekend, his first in the bainisteoir bib.
The 2012 Footballer of the Year, took over from Conleith Gilligan and Richie Thornton, who stepped down after the Magpie’ surrendered their Ulster title to Glen last season, and oversaw Kilcoo’s nine-point win over Burren on Sunday.
“I’m just delighted for those lads,” said Lacey, an All-Ireland winning defender with Donegal in 2012, who finished his playing career with four All-Star awards.
“It was never about me or any of the backroom team, it’s the players first and foremost and in Down, they’ve had a tough path in the Down Championship and a lot of things going against them and a lot of distractions.
“It’s a credit to them in terms of how they’ve handled themselves. They’ve kept their feet on the ground, and they came here full focused and delivered a really good performance so from my end I’m really happy and content with that.”
Lacey hailed the leadership within the Kilcoo camp as their drive to succeed and continuing to strive for greatness has never diminished. Most of the team that lined out in Páirc Esler last Sunday have Ulster and All-Ireland medals in their back pockets, but they still want more.
“There’s plenty of leaders, I think that’s what so special about this group,” added Lacey, widely regarded as one of the best players of his generation. “I’ve said it on numerous occasions to them, it’s their honesty within, it’s not about any individual and there’s no egos in there.
“It’s very much the group and the collective. I go training there every night and there’s 35 lads and they’re ready to go, they’re one hundred per cent committed. Game time or no game time, it doesn’t phase them, they push each other on and that’s the most important thing.”
A standout name on the starting team was Down manager Conor Laverty, who has been used as an impact sub for most of the campaign and while he didn’t take his place behind the band for the pre-match parade, Laverty was thrown in from the start.
Of the 13 finals Kilcoo have featured in since 2009, winning 12 of those along the way, Laverty has started all 13 and Lacey, who would have come up against Laverty during their county playing days, hails his involvement in the coaching room as well as on the field.
“His leadership, his game intelligence, his knowledge of the game, his ability to coach, the way the game fell today and looking at match ups, we just felt he was better starting today. But it’s not just Conor.
“I don’t want to start naming names because you feel like you’d miss somebody out, it’s the collective and we speak about that every night and that’s number one and it always has been. That’s the power within the group and that’s the power within Kilcoo and we’ll use that.”