Ulster Club SFC Final: Kilcoo win title for first time with deserved 2-11 to 2-9 win over Naomh Conaill
|AIB Ulster Club Senior Football Championship Final: Naomh Conaill v Kilcoo|
|Coverage: Game clips and match report on BBC Sport website; Match highlights on Playing for the the Parish on BBC Two NI on Tuesday, 3 December at 22:00 GMT|
Kilcoo clinched their first Ulster Club Football title with a deserved 2-11 to 2-9 win over Naomh Conaill at Omagh.
Aidan Branagan's goal put Kilcoo 1-8 to 0-4 up but Charlie McGuinness and Jeaic McKelvey netted before the break to cut the margin to one.
A goal from the superb Darryl Branagan - one of the five brothers in the side - left Kilcoo six up after 39 minutes.
Naomh Conaill cut the margin to one but fittingly Daryl Branagan hit the last score to round off a thrilling contest.
Kilcoo's players and fans celebrated amid joyous scenes at the final whistle as the Down club finally secured the provincial title after defeats in the 2012 and 2016 deciders by Crossmaglen and Slaughtneil.
After their impressive semi-final win over a fancied Clontibret side, Naomh Conaill went into the final as favourites.
Kilcoo had been fortunate to overcome Derrygonnelly in their semi-final but Mickey Moran's outfit were a changed side in the final as they showed pace and power to overcome a Naomh Conaill side who attempted to unhinge the opposition's defence with long ball tactics.
To an extent, Naomh Conaill's direct play did work as knockdowns set up the goals for McGuinness and McKelvey just before the break after Aidan Branagan's three-pointer moments earlier had put Kilcoo seven ahead.
But the man of the match's goal on 39 minutes put Kilcoo six up again and while there were possibly guilty of looking for finish line too early in the closing stages, anything other than a victory for the Down champions would have represented a travesty.
Kilcoo attack at speed after turnovers
The pattern was set early on as Naomh Conaill attempted to rain high balls at the Kilcoo square with the Down side's attacking approach founded on speedy attacks following turnovers.
Wing-back Branagan strode upfield to notch the opening score with his brother Eugene notching Kilcoo's next two scores after efforts from Ciaran Thompson and McGuinness had given Naomh Conaill the lead for the one and only time in the game.
Naomh Conaill possibly will look back on their third point which levelled the game as Eunan Doherty blasted over from close range when he seemed certain to find the next.
In response, Kilcoo notched five unanswered points with the Johnston brothers Ryan [two] and Jerome [one] contributing three of those points along with two Paul Devlin efforts.
Ethan O'Donnell lifted the siege with a towering effort for Naomh Conaill but the game looked possibly over when Kilcoo full-back Aidan Branagan finished off a magnificent move started, inevitably by brother Darryl's charge from his own defence.
However, the high ball yielded two goals in as many minutes for Naomh Conaill as Kieran Gallagher broke the ball for McGuinness to score before the full-forward himself set up McKelvey to rifle to the roof of the net soccer style.
Kilcoo refuse to panic despite conceding goals
Kilcoo could have been forgiven for being shell shocked as they trooped in at half-time only one ahead.
However, Mickey Moran's team talk clearly worked its magic as they dominated the early stages of the second half as points from Ryan McEvoy and Conor Laverty were followed by Darryl Branagan's ultimately decisive goal as he finished to the net after appearing to run out of road near the end line following a brilliant move.
But Kilcoo went 20 minutes without a score after Branagan's goal - which included periods of them attempting to play keep ball - and that allowed Naomh Conaill to chip away at their lead.
When Anthony Thompson pointed in the 57th minute, there was only one it and that came after Eoin Waide and McGuinness had fired wides in the couple of previous minutes.
However, the irrepressible Branagan strode upfield to ease Kilcoo nerves as he stroked over a superb score from a tight angle with one minute of normal time left.
Six minutes of injury-time followed but there were no further scores as a couple of more long balls into the Kilcoo defence came to nothing.