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Historic title our just reward, says O'Hanlon

 

By Declan Bogue

With history holding out its hand to be grasped by Kilcoo or swatted away by Burren, no player stood as tall on the Pairc Esler turf as the former's joint-captain Darragh O'Hanlon.

In the lead-up to Sunday's final, he was taken aside by his close friend and clubmate Gerry Kane, who informed him that 2017 was the centenary year of their first Down Championship.

This was duly noted by O'Hanlon, who in accepting the Frank O'Hare Cup along with joint-captain Darryl Branagan made mention of it.

With Burren seeking a goal in the closing stages, O'Hanlon twice flung himself at a goalbound shot as they survived the onslaught and equalled the opposition's record of six consecutive Down titles.

"I know I can hardly walk with cramp and there are a lot of boys like me," the 23-year-old carpenter said.

"We knew they were going to come out there like a wounded animal because we have dominated over the last six years.

"It's unbelievable. We only won our first Championship in 2009 for something like 70-odd years, and now we are in 2017 with six on the bounce."

Such success does not happen by itself. O'Hanlon said: "There is great work being done in our club, not just at senior level. It is right the way up from under-age and we are reaping the rewards. Every night when you go down to our field, you can't even get parked in the car park there are that many people. There is a huge work-rate throughout the club, not just with ourselves, and we are reaping the rewards."

Equalling Burren's record was something the Kilcoo players and management maintained was not discussed in the dressing room.

"We never even spoke about six in a row this year at all," stated O'Hanlon.

"Burren was a massive test for us, I know there was a lot of stuff written in the papers that wasn't true, saying we had our sights set on Ulster."

They partied long into the night in the heart of the Mourne mountains, but come yesterday morning, everyone was back on track ahead of Slaughtneil's visit to Newry for the preliminary round of the Ulster Championship on October 15.

It's a repeat of last year's decider, and there is some unfinished business.

"I am sure Slaughtneil were either watching on TV or in the stands and they will be doing their homework. Last year we were very, very hurt to lose in the final and we didn't do ourselves justice," O'Hanlon added.

"We have two weeks, we will assess the situation and get ourselves ready for two weeks' time for another titanic battle."

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