Magpies have eyes on the prize

By Shaun Casey

FOR the twelfth season in succession, the black and white streamers representing Kilcoo will hang from the handles of the Frank O’Hare Cup as the Magpies’ dominance of the Down club scene continues.

From ten of those 11 previous county final days, Kilcoo have left Páirc Esler (Sunday, 2.15m) with the cup and gone on to bigger and better things including two Ulster titles, an All-Ireland crown and another appearance in the All-Ireland final.

The one blot on their otherwise outstanding record in the Mourne County is from 2018 when they lost their stranglehold to Burren when a brace of goals from sharpshooter Donal O’Hare guided the St Mary’s club to a 2-12 to 2-9 victory.

Burren, now led by former Kilcoo boss Jim McCorry, have only made it back to one decider since then and Kilcoo exacted their revenge in 2021 with a two-point win. While many have tried, only Burren have solved the Kilcoo puzzle in recent years.

And from the outset, they have been tipped as the only team capable of doing it again this year. While league champions Carryduff had their reasons to be optimistic, they had two bites of the cherry and couldn’t figure out Karl Lacey’s side.

A lot was expected in the opening round clash with Carryduff and while the early exchanges were fairly close on the scoreboard at least, Kilcoo pulled away before half time. A Callum Rogers goal helped the reigning champs win 1-13 to 0-10.

There was little excitement in the next round as Kilcoo brushed aside Mayobridge with the minimum of fuss, with Jerome Johnston this time raising the green flag in their one-sided 1-10 to 0-5 victory.

That set up a rematch with Carryduff and for long periods of the first half, Kilcoo looked in trouble. But three red cards for the opposition turned the tide and Kilcoo qualified for the final four with a 9-5 win.

Their semi-final victory over Clonduff was marred by the ugly scenes near the end but there was no doubting that Kilcoo were the superior side.

It could be argued that they haven’t been properly tested yet, and Burren have been eyeing up that black and white jersey all year long. It should make for an intriguing and exciting match up, but Kilcoo will be confident of heading home with the cup as they usually do.

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