By Katrina Brennan
KILCOO claimed their eleventh Down Championship in 12 years when they dispatched Burren with relative ease just over a fortnight ago – next, it’s Derrygonnelly’s turn to give them a rattle.
The teams last met in the 2021 Ulster Club final on a day the Harps might prefer to forget.
After keeping with the Down men for 15 minutes, the Magpies pulled away to win 3-10 to 0-3.
Ryan Jones was the captain that day and scored two points as their hopes of an Ulster title came crashing down.
Almost two years on, he still hasn’t watched that game back.
“The game was a disappointing one and we knew ourselves that the way it panned out wasn’t a true reflection of us as a team,” said Jones.
I suppose it would make bad viewing at times, so no we haven’t watched it back and at the end of the day teams change year on year.
“The Kilcoo team might have a lot of the same players from that time in ‘21 but their style of play has probably changed a lot and I think it will be completely different this Sunday as well.”
Kilcoo are amongst the favourites to reclaim the Ulster crown this year. The then reigning All-Ireland champions lost to Malachy O’Rourke’s Glen in the provincial decider in 2022 and Jones predicts that Karl Lacey’s side will be on a mission, starting in Brewster Park on Sunday (3.30pm).
“I have no doubt that they have set high challenges for themselves after losing the Ulster Championship last year to Glen, that they want to go one better and win it.
“They’ll be looking to go out and I suppose stamp their authority on the competition against us early doors,” said the 32-year-old pharmacist.
“The big thing for us is making sure we stay in the game. The last time we played them we let the game get away from us too fast.
“Now, we’ve been well tested in the Fermanagh Championship and I would hope all those tests would stand to us, but I think we play our best football once we’re compact and every man is carrying out their job for the team.
“Sunday is an opportunity to see if we’ve closed the gap and if we could maybe produce a better performance that gives us an opportunity to maybe compete and still be with Kilcoo going into the last 10 minutes.”
Kilcoo will come to Brewster Park exuding confidence but while Jones says they deserve respect Derrygonnelly will need to focus on their own strengths.
“We feel that we’ve a lot of very good players on our team. We’ve a lot of lads that have played county standard football, have played in Ulster finals for their county. Kilcoo have a very good team as well but we need to go out with that belief.
“At the end of the day there would be no point in playing Kilcoo if you didn’t think you could beat them.
“Yes, we obviously respect the team that they are and of course all the neutrals will have them as favourites, but at the end of the day, we need to concentrate on our own ability and what we’re doing and that will give ourselves the best chance.
“It’s a massive challenge but these are the days you enjoy playing and seeing how you shape up against the best.”