Upbeat Gilligan believes Kilcoo are poised to have final say
Former Derry footballer Conleth Gilligan thought when he stepped down from inter-county fare that he had said goodbye to the sport he graced with distinction.
But right now Gilligan is very much in the big picture as Kilcoo set their sights on another Down senior football championship title.
Having overcome Burren in a replayed quarter-final in front of an estimated 6,000 fans at Pairc Esler, Newry, last Saturday night, Kilcoo must face Clonduff in this weekend's semi-final knowing that victory will thrust them into yet another decider.
Even though they are still without some key players, including Darragh O'Hanlon and Ceilum Doherty, Kilcoo have shown considerable resilience and staying power in this year's championship and, in his role as No 2 to manager Mickey Moran, Gilligan has come to admire the qualities within the side.
"They have shown great battling characteristics to date and deserve to be in the last four," says Gilligan. "Competition is hot and heavy in Down but we are still very focused on reaching the final."
With Paul Devlin and Conor Laverty particularly prominent, Kilcoo stunned Burren with a late rally. Each player scored a vital goal as Kilcoo held firm in a tense finish to win by 2-12 to 2-9.
They will now meet a Clonduff side that has Down skipper Darren O'Hagan at its hub. His dynamic leadership has done much to underpin the team's surge into the last four and Gilligan accepts that his Kilcoo side face another demanding test.
"There is very little between all the sides at this stage of the championship so we cannot afford any slip-ups," he stresses.
"While Kilcoo have won several titles over recent years, there is still a palpable hunger there and the players will be giving it everything against Clonduff."
It was Burren who ended Kilcoo's monopoly of the Down title last year when they terminated their bid for what would have been a seventh successive county crown but right now Kilcoo's hunger is proving a driving force.