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Kilcoo keen to put Down back on map by tasting All-Ireland Club success, says Ryan McEvoy

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Ryan McEvoy is anxious to see Kilcoo reach the All-Ireland Club final

Ryan McEvoy is anxious to see Kilcoo reach the All-Ireland Club final

©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

Ryan McEvoy is anxious to see Kilcoo reach the All-Ireland Club final

When Kilcoo take the field against Cork and Munster champions St Finbarr’s in the All-Ireland Senior Club Football Championship semi-final on Saturday in Portlaoise (3.00pm), they will not merely be playing for the glory of their club.

They will also be striving to take what would be another crucial step towards bringing a long-awaited slice of All-Ireland glory to Down.

It was in 1986 and 1988 that Burren reigned supreme on the national stage, a team that pushed back the barriers and wrote a special chapter in their county’s GAA history by landing an unprecedented All-Ireland double.

At inter-county level, of course, Down went on to claim the Sam Maguire Cup in 1991 and 1994 under the baton of Peter McGrath but since then, apart from a heartbreaking All-Ireland final defeat to Cork (0-16 to 0-15) in 2010, Down have had to be content with the role of onlookers as success continued to go elsewhere.

But right now, having captured back-to-back Ulster Club Championship titles for the first time, Kilcoo are chomping at the bit to inscribe their name into the history books as All-Ireland club kingpins.

Their potent mix of youth and experience will undoubtedly be put to the test by a St Finbarr’s side whose ambitions to reign on the All-Ireland throne have been further cemented by their stunning Munster Club Championship final victory over Kerry champions Austin Stacks, who had Armagh assistant manager Kieran Donaghy in their line-up.

If players like Conor Laverty and Ryan Johnston represent the seasoned heart of the Kilcoo side, then full-back Ryan McEvoy is the epitome of youthful energy and glowing ambition. And the versatile McEvoy — he is not only a defensive pillar but an astute counter-attacking ace as well as being an ice-cool free-taker — is adamant that his team are currently on the most important mission of their lives.

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“Our aim will be to try and put Down back on the map,” declared McEvoy. “It has been quite some time since a Down team won the All-Ireland Club series and we want to end that famine.

“The memories of our defeat to Corofin in the All-Ireland Club final a couple of years ago are still vivid and we want to atone for that, but we are taking one step at a time.”

And McEvoy and his colleagues are steeled for the challenge that “one of our own”, as he puts it, will offer in the heat of battle.

“Down player Conor McCrickard has been very impressive with St Finbarr’s and fair play to him. Obviously he will be doing his best for them on Saturday,” acknowledged McEvoy.

Kilcoo’s patience, ball retention skills and ability to break at lightning pace have undermined a few teams of late, none more so than Derrygonnelly Harps in the Ulster Club final.

“We know that Derrygonnelly are a better team than they showed against us. We were fortunate to get the breaks on the day,” pointed out McEvoy.

On the day that Kilcoo won their ninth Down title in 11 years towards the end of last year, McEvoy’s brother Caolan was undergoing a liver transplant in a London hospital. On Saturday, though, he will be in the Kilcoo contingent at O’Moore Park, Portlaoise hoping to see the team reach the All-Ireland final.

“Obviously everyone is delighted that he is back with us,” smiled McEvoy.


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