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03 Jul 2022

Philip Buchanan delighted to play cameo role as Kilmac’ clinch title

Buchanan came off the bench to score as Kilmacrennan Celtic won last weekend's Premier Division play-off

Kilmacrennan Celtic defeat Bonagee United to clinch Premier Division title

Kilmacrennan Celtic celebrate winning the Donegal League Premier Division play-off.

It felt almost fitting that, after a rollercoaster season, Philip Buchanan would have the last, decisive say.

There were only two minutes left on the clock in Saturday’s Donegal League Premier Division play-off and the game, suddenly, was returned to the melting pot.

Paddy McGowan’s goal gave ten-man Bonagee United a glimmer of hope again after goals by Paul Bradley and Matthew McLaughlin put Kilmacrennan Celtic into the driving seat.

Enter Buchanan.

The 43-year-old was brought on for the final 12 minutes. Returned to the club and largely playing with the reserve team in the Saturday League, Buchanan - who won back-to-back titles with Kilmac’ in 2009 and 2010 - swept home in the 88th minute from Bradley’s cross. Buchanan’s finish was the cue for the champagne to pop.

“I’m so delighted for them after the year they put in,” Buchanan told Donegal Live.

“I played a very, very small part. The team there is unbelievable. They have super players.

“At training, I feel like an old man the way they’re zipping the ball around. They have quality on the ball right through the team and ‘Zola’ (manager Gerard McGranaghan) has them so well set up.

“The team is well coached and well drilled. My involvement has been tiny, but it’s great to have any involvement with this group.”

Just three weeks ago, Kilmacrennan’s title charged seemed gone, but an appeals procedure that saw Keadue Rovers sanction for fielding an illegal player resulted in the Lurgymen obtaining two additional points.

Even at that, it wasn’t straightforward. They needed a late James Doherty winner against Kildrum Tigers on the penultimate day and Bonagee drawing with the Tigers a week later to secure a play-off

Buchanan said: “We were lucky in many ways to get a play-off. When it’s out of your hands on the last day, all you can do is look after your own bit. We beat Convoy and were just sitting waiting on the news. We were hopeful that we’d get another crack and we did.

“Bonagee were super all season and they started the game really well. Kilmacrennan got into the game a bit and when we moved it and kept it, we started to open them up.

“We got a wee bit of luck with the first goal maybe, but Matty’s goal was a super strike. We probably thought it was game over at that stage, but Bonagee got one back and a wee bit of doubt came in.”

Buchanan was one of the leading protagonists of the Kilmacrennan squad that won League titles in ’09 and ’10 under Sean Sandilands’ management.

He returned this season having previously  been at his native Cranford.

“I’m always happy to get a goal,” he said.

“I was lucky enough to be a part of the two-in-a-row team. We played a different style to this squad. These boys keep the ball and play a lot more, but we were riding high back then.

“Over the last three or four years, it has been rebuilding for Kilmacrennan again.”

McGranaghan, who has been manager for the last three seasons, says he will step down from the role.

Buchanan credits the Raphoe native with leading Kilmac’s rise to the summit.

He said: “They’re at the top regardless and credit to ‘Zola’ for that. It’s hard to get boys out and keep teams going, but he’s done that. To keep the consistency is super for him and the boys.”

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