BRIAN MCENIFF COLUMN: We all read too much into Kilcoo’s semi-final performance against Derrygonnelly

BRIAN MCENIFF COLUMN: We all read too much into Kilcoo’s semi-final performance against Derrygonnelly

Naomh Conaill reached the end of the road on Sunday against Kilcoo in the Ulster Club final.

It was a disappointing end to what has been a great journey. But the reality is they never really got going and that is a pity, they did not play as well as they can.

I think no more than the rest of us, they read too much in Kilcoo’s semi-final win over Derrygonnelly.

The Down champions beat Derrygonnelly by two points and if the Fermanagh champions had a freetaker they would have been beaten.

That win and performance led Naomh Conaill into a false sense and they paid the price in the first half. And by the time they realised it the horse had bolted.

Kilcoo are a serious club and are a very united bunch. There are five Branagans on the team and they are all brothers and there are three Johnstons and at least two of them are brothers. And of course they have Mickey Moran who has been around the block in the Ulster club and is a quality coach and manager.

Darryl Branagan, Eugene Branagan and Paul Devlin inflicted an awful lot of pain especially in the first half. Darryl Branagan scored a goal and two points from the half-back line and also was involved in the move for the second goal.

They flooded midfield. Full-back Aidan Branagan moved to the middle of the field to do a marking job on Ciaran Thompson.

They led by seven points coming up to half-time after completely dominating Naomh Conaill in the second quarter.

They put Naomh Conaill under pressure from their own kickouts and what they did not win in the air they snapped it up in the loose. They were much hungrier for the ball when it broke in the middle third.

They got caught with two goals in a minute in injury time and were only a point up at half-time.

But the goals did not unsettle them and instead of Naomh Conaill coming out and taking the fight to them they took off again at the start of the second half and went six up again.

In fairness to Naomh Conaill they did not surrender and battled back into the game and when Anthony Thompson scored to cut the lead to a point I thought Naomh Conaill would have got a draw out of it.

But it didn’t happen and Kilcoo were crowned champions for the first time on the third attempt. Whether or not they are the better team is debatable but there is no denying they were the best team on Sunday.

The pity was Naomh Conaill did not play the football that got them through to the final.

Apart from Anthony Thompson and Ethan O’Donnell and the two young lads in the full-forward line - Charlie McGuinness and Kieran Gallagher, whose aerial threat caused problems for the Kilcoo rearguard - Naomh Conaill had too many below par performers.

The loss of AJ Gallagher at half-time through injury was a blow to Naomh Conaill too. If AJ was playing he might have stopped Darryl Branagan from scoring the second goal.

Martin Regan and his team will be disappointed but when they reflect in the coming months it has been a good year by any standard.

They will have gained from the experience and they are a young side and they have a lot to be positive about in the years ahead.

Brian McEniff was a in conversation with Tom Comack

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