Down Senior Football Championship semi-final
CLONDUFF V KILCOO
(Saturday, Páirc Esler, 7.30pm)
CONLEITH Gilligan is looking forward to his first experience of the Kilcoo-Clonduff derby when the fierce rivals clash in Newry on Saturday night.
The sides have yet to meet in the league for various reasons, so Gilligan, a Magpie coach under Mickey Moran, is not sure what to expect.
“It will be the first time the teams have met, in terms of this season there is no history in that sense,” he said. “It’s just a fresh challenge.
“Obviously it’s not ideal preparation having a replay and playing the following week but in some cases the extra game might bring a lot of boys on.”
Kilcoo are in the last four courtesy of a late show against Burren when Paul Devlin cracked home a superb penalty and Conor Laverty found then the net to secure a three-point win.
It was a tense evening with Moran and Burren boss Paddy O’Rourke squaring up, and it was the St Mary’s side that played the better football over the hour.
However, Gilligan said that Kilcoo’s famous ability to always stay in a game proved beneficial once again.
“It was a strange one, the game was probably a mirror opposite to the first day,” said the Derry man.
“We did what Burren had did to us the first day, we came strong at the end whenever the game looked to be all but dead and buried.
“A very strange game, we’ll have to look at it again and see where the bits and pieces were.
“We hung in at the times we needed to hang in and we did enough to be in touch.”
Clonduff, under Adrian O’Donnell and Mark Harte, have responded well to their second-round loss to Warrenpoint.
They finished strongly to see off Bryansford by eight points before recovering from a slow start to defeat Carryduff by two points in the quarter-final.
Arthur McConville has been in superb goal-scoring form with five green flags to his name, despite a missed penalty against Bryansford, while Darren O’Hagan has been absolutely brilliant in defence.
The Yellas have looked wide open when O’Hagan has moved from centre half-back to man-mark an opposition dangerman, but given Conor Laverty’s influence in last week’s replay, they may have no choice but to take that risk.
Kilcoo have been well ahead of Clonduff over the last decade and that would have caused plenty of anguish in Hilltown. The feeling is that the gap has narrowed but it’s still hard to see Clonduff preventing Kilcoo from reaching an eighth straight final.