By Michael McMullan
WITH the first sentence that comes out of Aidan Branagan’s mouth comes the sense of that same cool and collected way Kilcoo go about their football.
Nothing is too low and nothing is too high. It’s about taking everything as it comes. The fact he is joint-captain tells why they never seem to panic.
After pocketing an All-Ireland medal, the one item their fanatic group craved like nothing else, he had drifted off into the sunset until the tail end of the league.
With his wife Coleen, they had five young children – with a recently born son on the way – in mid summer when he was up at the pitch coaching underage.
Numbers were low at the time, with half a dozen of the thirds called into the senior camp. Conleith Gilligan gently floated the idea of a comeback in his direction.
“I stepped in and once you go one night you’re back in,” he said of settling back in at centre-back.
“It was good to get back in though. I was going to the games and was agitated watching them. It’s not easy watching when you’re used to playing all the time.”
With everyone back in the fold, Branagan is back to a role as a sub coming into the game. With the level of sacrifice players put in, it can been seen as a thankless role by some.
For Branagan, now 39 year young, who has coached most of the senior squad, he can see bigger picture and is delighted to see them advance.
“At the end of the day, if there’s 10 old men in the team it’s never going to last. You need to be prepared to let them go ahead and get their time on the field.”
After a five year stint with the club u-14s that delivered a Féile title, he has dipped in with other teams through the club in a coaching structure with Conor Laverty’s fingerprints all over.
“If those young fellas are at home watching this year or going to the matches watching you winning Down or getting into Ulster, they’re excited and they’re breaking into the panel next year. They’re chomping at the bit to get on the team, so it’s leaving everyone in good stead.”
Looking ahead to Sunday, Branagan doesn’t read into the expectation of a similar pattern to tight battle to their extra-time battle over Glen last season.
“Every game takes its own toll,” he said. “When you get out there it’s the same as any game, anything can happen. The ball can be through and someone can get a goal with the first kick, so you just have to take what’s in front of you.”
Branagan has been around the Kilcoo camp to judge one season against another and he feels it’s been easier to make the return after winning the All-Ireland. The seven or eight players pushing to get into the team has led to a “better buzz” around training.
“They’re pushing really hard at training and it’s keeping the boys that are one to 15 sharp every game and keeping them on their toes.”