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Johnston's teenage kicks can inspire Kilcoo

John Campbell

By John Campbell

Two minutes after 18-year-old Shealan Johnston fired over the last score of the game to seal Kilcoo's memorable victory over Ballyboden St Enda's in the All-Ireland Club semi-final, he found himself walking on air when the final whistle sounded.

With Kilcoo having diced with danger in the closing segment as their Dublin opponents sought to salvage the game, a rescue act was clearly required to calm nerves and restore stability.

That's precisely what Johnston's slickly-taken point achieved, and now this supremely talented teenager is targeting a starting place against Corofin in the All-Ireland Club final on Sunday.

Manager Mickey Moran is considering all his selection options as he formulates his strategy for the biggest game in Kilcoo's history.

For Johnston, the prospect of joining his brothers Ryan and Jerome in the line-up is awe-inspiring.

The Johnston trio are cousins of the renowned Branagan quintet who have helped to form the backbone of the side for so long, and to say there is a family flavour to the team would be an understatement.

"I played in the Ulster Minor Club champions' tournament for Kilcoo against Termon at the St Paul's club recently but I never imagined then that I might be in contention for a place in a team that would be going into the All-Ireland Club final," reveals Shealan.

"I was fortunate enough to have been awarded a starting place against Naomh Conaill in the Ulster final and again in the All-Ireland semi-final against Ballyboden St Enda's, but you can take nothing for granted.

"We have a very good squad of players and anyone is capable of stepping in at a moment's notice and doing a good job."

His versatility, pace and intelligent distribution have certainly struck a chord with manager Moran, who has deployed his substitutes wisely in the competition to date, with several young players, such as Justin Clarke, having been introduced to the action at opportune times.

"The fact that we have reached the All-Ireland final has brought us all on individually and collectively, but now we want to finish the job in the best manner possible," says Johnston. "It would mean so much for our community if the team was to win.

"We know that Corofin are very strong and have some particularly experienced players, so we are aware of just how difficult it is going to be, but we are ready for the challenge."

Kilcoo are determined to make a good start to the game having been warned by Moran to avoid having to chase the contest if they can because of Corofin's vast experience in closing difficult games out.

"We know that we can't afford to let Corofin get away from us," adds Johnston.

Kilcoo

Corofin

All-Ireland Club SFC Final

Croke Park, Sunday, 4.00pm

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