Declan McCoy – Glen and their kick-out conundrum

By Declan McCoy

THE recent Ulster Club Championship final between Glen and Kilcoo was simply brilliant. I had planned to go to it but my wife had organised Christmas drinks with her sisters leaving me at home with the boys.

The word ‘hero’ does not do me justice (I clean too). I improvised and set them up with Pringles and the Nintendo and watched the game in peace on TV. The coverage of the club championships on TG4 has been immense.

I had been looking forward to this match for a few reasons. Firstly, I had been to the corresponding fixture last year where Glen destroyed Kilcoo’s kick-out but Kilcoo battled it out and deservedly won. I was intrigued to see if Kilcoo could cope with this tactically as they were fore-warned last year of this strategy.

Secondly, I am a huge admirer of Malachy O’Rourke as a manager as I find him excellent tactically. He seems to get the absolute most out of any team he is involved in.

Thirdly, I felt Kilcoo brought more intensity than Glen in last year’s game and expected a reaction from the Derry men.

Often showpieces like this can be a letdown but, for me, this was one of the best games I’ve seen in years. It had quality, aggression, dark arts and an unbelievable intensity to it.

Kilcoo have had to ship a lot of criticism in the aftermath. If we think about teams that neutrals love, for example Mayo or Newcastle in the 90s, they have a common theme in being exciting to watch but ultimately unsuccessful.

Serial winners are often disliked for being just that, winners. Having watched and managed against Kilcoo, they have a will to win that is astonishing. This is epitomised by the Branagan brothers. Now I have to be careful as their nephew Sean plays soccer with my son Cian for Windmill Stars, but while they may not be everyone’s cup of tea, I simply love watching them.

They are warriors who get the job done and any manager would love them in their team. Over the years when any game was in the balance they always stood up. They are at their absolute best when their backs are to the wall and this is why Kilcoo almost always win close games.

Niall is my favourite player as he’s a no-nonsense defender who more often than not wins his battles and always drives forward to bring the game to the opposition.

Glen would give Kilcoo all they wanted in terms of footballing ability but the big question was could they match their intensity? They absolutely did and none more so than Conor Glass and Conleth McGuckian.

They absolutely destroyed Kilcoo’s kick-out and this gave them a great platform for the entire game. Kilcoo simply couldn’t cope with the ferocious press put on their kick-out and the goal at the end was a prime example of this.

Now, Kilcoo fought back and the penalty miss amay have been the difference, but I just felt Glen were at a slightly higher level tactically and intensity-wise. The interview by Conor Glass afterwards was refreshingly honest and I respect that he left what happened on the field on the field.

Kilcoo were worthy champions and strike me as the sort of team that will not wilt, but will accept the challenge of being better next year and I wouldn’t be surprised if they won it again.

As for Glen, they are an exceptional team with an exceptional manager. They have quality all over the field and an outrageous work ethic. Conor Glass is an absolute colossus for them and I hope they now go on and win it. You get the feeling it will come down to them and Kilmacud. It will be interesting to see if they press the kick-out as much if they meet the Dublin champions.

Kilcoo naturally get a lot of men behind the ball so a full press on them doesn’t leave a huge threat in behind. Kilmacud will leave Walsh and co. high up the field on their kick-out so if you lose a full-press kick-out it’s curtains as they will destroy you on the one-on-one inside.

Hopefully another potential heavyweight contest for the neutral to enjoy in early January.

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