Down Senior Football Championship final
Kilcoo v Warrenpoint
Sunday, Pairc Esler, 4pm
KILCOO coach Conleith Gilligan has said that the Magpies have been training for the physical and mental challenges of 80-minute games rather than 60.
Speaking ahead of Sunday’s final when the club are attempting to win a seventh title in eight years, the Derry man said that the extra work has allowed them to stay calm in those crucial final moments.
“It’s a case of not panicking when things aren’t going well, and the players have done that,” said Gilligan.
“They haven’t panicked and they really haven’t done anything stupid towards the end of games.
“Football over the last number of years has changed. What used to be 30-minute halves are now creeping towards 40 minutes.
“You have to be aware of that and prepare of that. Things can happen as much in the last quarter as anywhere else so don’t panic and get to the finish line. Keep your nerve.”
Even though they are where they want to be, Kilcoo have not been at their brilliant best this season.
They were outplayed for long periods before finishing strongly to defeat Burren in a quarter-final replay while teams like Rostrevor and Clonduff have also given them bother.
Results are the bottom line for Gilligan, though.
“You want to go out every day and perform to the best of your ability. Any day you don’t do that is disappointing but ultimately winning is what it’s all about. As long as you win, everything else is insignificant.
“Still though, it would be nice if we could play a bit better and do more of the things that we have been trying to do.
“The last number of games we’ve had to dig it out late on and the structure goes out the window a bit, it’s about getting enough scorers to get over the line.”
The Ballinderry legend knows that a big improvement will be needed against a Warrenpoint side that has produced some top football en-route to their first final since 1978.
“They were very good against Clonduff too, they racked up a big score there.
“They have the ability to get goals and in Ross McGarry they have one of the top forwards in Down for a good while now, but especially this season.
“Then you have John and Ryan Boyle. Pound for pound, John has been exceptional in this year’s championship. Ryan has missed a bit but he is a top player.
“Add into the mix young Donagh McAleenan and you have a really exciting team. They are really good players right across the board.
“They ripped Ballyholland, who are usually very good defensively, to shreds in 15 minutes so the warning signs are there.”