Kilcoo will be on their guard against Derrygonnelly

By Michael McMullan

KILCOO assistant manager Conleith Gilligan says they will be ‘on their guard’ ahead of Sunday’s Ulster final showdown with Derrygonnelly.
Gilligan, an All-Ireland winner with Ballinderry in 2002, feels the Fermanagh giants are better and more rounded than the side Kilcoo saw off on their way to the 2019 Ulster Club title.
A quick free kick from Conor Laverty made the game defining 38th minute goal for Aaron Branagan in a 1-8 to 0-9 win.
“To win six out of seven (titles) in Fermanagh shows a savage level of consistency and they’ve got better every year in Ulster,” Gilligan said.
“They’ll probably feel hard done by that they didn’t put us away in that semi-final.  At that stage, it was the winning and losing of the game. When we got the goal against the run of play and they were in the ascendancy.”
Gilligan speaks of both the Derrygonnelly players’ ability and physically ‘brilliant’ shape.
“Any team that goes to Tyrone and beats Dromore and then to beat the team that beats Crossmaglen (Clann Éireann)… so is a massive test for us,” Gilligan adds.
One of the features of their win over Dromore was the midfield pairing of Stephen McGullion and Ryan Jones, with Conall Jones leading the attack from full-forward.  Add in Shane McGullion’s goals in a man of the match performance against the Armagh champions.
“Two years ago it was the same,” Gilligan said of the physical challenge Kilcoo will face on Sunday. “We hadn’t seen as much of them two years ago as we have now.”
He remembers seeing the size of the Derrygonnelly players in the warm-up that day in the Athletic Grounds.
“(They are) big physical men and add into the fact that are very good footballers as well. It makes it very difficult,
“Listening to some of the stuff around the Dromore game, whenever I tipped them and everybody was going for Dromore, because I knew the players they had. I knew that physically they were going to dominate that game.
“We have the utmost respect for Derrygonnelly, especially the fact that we were very lucky the last time, we’ll be on our guard.”
Kilcoo have been involved in tight games all through the Down championship and needed extra-time to see off Glen in the last round.
They did hit Mayobridge for four goals in their opening game of the season, but Gilligan stressed that the last goal came with the last play of the match.
“A lot of our games have been extra time and one or two point wins,” he said. “There would be a perception that we’d have a handy road in Down and that’s not actually the case.”
For all Kilcoo’s preparation from a management team led by four-time Ulster winning manager Mickey Moran, Gilligan said the players and their experience is what sees them through the stellar tough championship games.
“A lot of the stuff is down to players reacting out on the field, players having the ownership to make decisions whenever situations change, they can change,” he said.
“It’s not that we do A, B and C, players can adapt and change with the situation in front of them as it comes. That gives them the freedom that they are not hamstrung trying to do a certain thing if it is not the right thing.”

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