Down senior football champions Kilcoo have been thwarted in their bid to retain the title following their 3-4 to 0-8 defeat to Bryansford in yesterday’s second semi-final at Pairc Esler, Newry.
They will now meet Burren in next Sunday’s final at the same venue.
Two Ciaran Brannigan goals, one from a penalty, helped cement Bryansford’s authority although the switch of Kalum King, majestic for Down at midfield this year and an Allstar award contender at next Friday’s banquet in Dublin, from full-forward to the central area where he tamed the efficiency of Kilcoo’s Martin McLean was also a key factor in their success.
With the supply to the Kilcoo attack subsequently curtailed because of King’s aerial ability, the Bryansford defence, well-marshalled by Luke Howard, looked much more composed and when Conor Gribben helped himself to their third goal the team’s confidence soared.
Conor Lavery, who always managed to carry a threat, flighted over four points for Kilcoo while Paul Devlin contributed a brace and Aidan Brannigan also worked hard but the champions were not able to match the fluency and work-rate of their opponents.
And this was in spite of the fact that they were facing just fourteen men for the greater part of the second half-following the dismissal of Bryansford centre-half-back Aidan Shields who incurred a second yellow card.
In the first semi-final, Burren flagged up their intention of rekindling the glories they sampled in the 80’s — they were All Ireland Club champions in 1986 and ’88 — by overcoming Mayobridge by |1-16 to 3-7.
Mayobridge, who have collected eight titles since 1999, were severely handicapped by the absence of Down star Conor Garvey and the vastly experienced Ronan Sexton and were then dealt a further cruel blow when Benny Coulter was forced to limp out of the action after just five minutes.
Even by then Coulter had laid down a marker that he might have been a hot handful for the ’Bridge defence by whipping in the first goal of the game but by half-time, helped by Sean Murdock’s clever strike, Burren were ahead by 1-8 to 2-2.
Ryan Brady, who was superb in the Mayobridge attack, had grabbed their second goal and although substitute Dara Fegan stabbed in their third after the break, James McGovern, Eamon
Toner, Eamon McGovern and even goalkeeper Ciaran McGovern with two scores from long-range frees contributed to a Burren points blitz.
For Mayobridge boss Eamon McEnaney, who has just been appointed as the new Monaghan manager in succession to Seamus McEnaney, defeat was a bitter blow but he is now expected to oversee the team’s last few league games before stepping aside.
Meanwhile, in the Monaghan SFC final, Clontibret and Magheracloone must do it all again after playing out 1-10 apiece draw at Inniskeen. The replay will take place at the same venue next Sunday.