Ward strikes to crush the fairytale run of St Peter's
Kilcoo 1-12 St Peter's, Warrenpoint 0-14
So near and yet so far. St Peter's invaded unfamiliar territory yesterday when they confronted long-time monarchs Kilcoo in the Down Senior Football Championship final and could not have come any closer to realising their long-held cherished title dream.
In the end, though, it was an opportune goal from Dylan Ward and the deployment of their vast experience in closing out the contest that helped to take Kilcoo over the line in an absorbing battle.
It was the team's seventh title triumph in eight years and another significant milestone in the colourful history of this homely club set in the majestic Mourne mountains.
For manager Mickey Moran and his assistant Conleith Gilligan, this was a first taste of club success outside their native Derry and they understandably lapped up the occasion.
"Warrenpoint came on strongly at us in the second half and our goal came at a good time. We have had a very good bench all year and the lads who were brought on certainly did the business for us. I thought we closed the game out well, so we will enjoy this win before we focus on the Ulster Club Championship," said former Derry ace Gilligan.
St Peter's looked particularly lively in the opening quarter, breaking strongly from the back and forcing Kilcoo onto the back foot. Both Ryan Mallon and Ross McGarry (free) landed points as their team palpably grew in confidence but Paul Devlin's brace of points in the 13th and 15th minutes hoisted Kilcoo into a 0-3 to 0-2 lead.
With Ryan Johnston moving menacingly on the left wing and midfield strongman Ward covering a lot of ground, Kilcoo began to carry a greater threat yet once again it was Warrenpoint who made headway when Ruairi McCormack and then McGarry tacked on points to ease their side ahead at 0-4 to 0-3.
But the pendulum quickly swung to the other end again where Kilcoo goalkeeper Martin McCourt converted a long-range free and Devlin scooped his third score before McGarry and Aidan Branagan exchanged points to leave Kilcoo in front at the break (0-6 to 0-5).
If Warrenpoint displayed grit and tenacity in the first half, then these qualities were to sustain their second-half performance. With McGarry continuing to prove a rich source of scores - he helped himself to nine in all (seven frees) - and substitute Anton Magill piloting over a fine effort, Warrenpoint remained on Kilcoo's shoulder.
But when Conor Laverty created a clever opening for Ward in the 51st minute, the latter deftly tucked away the only goal of the game.
From then on Kilcoo looked slightly more comfortable although Warrenpoint showed supreme courage in maintaining their momentum until the end.
McGarry might well have pirated a goal in his team's final flourish but his diving fisted effort went narrowly wide - and with it went his team's last chance of salvaging glory.
Meanwhile, in the Cavan Senior Football Championship, Oisin O'Connell's three-pointer proved Castlerahan's passport to another title as they beat Ramor United by 1-9 to 0-10.
Kilcoo: M McCourt 0-1 (f); N Branagan, Aidan Branagan 0-1, N McEvoy; Aaron Branagan, D Branagan, M O Runaigh; R McEvoy 0-3 (3f), D Ward 1-1; A Morgan, P Devlin 0-4 (3f, 1 '45'), R Johnston 0-1; E Branagan, J Johnston 0-1, C Laverty. Subs: S Johnston for D Branagan (Black card 37), A Morgan for E Branagan (52), T Fettis for Morgan (64). Yellow card: Aidan Branagan (4).
St Peter's Warrenpoint: G McMahon; A Lynch, P Murdock, R McAleenan; S Boyle, J Boyle 0-1, Ciaran McCartan; Cormac McCartan, R Magee, R Mallon 0-2, D McAleenan; R McCormack 0-1, A Magee, R McGarry 0-9, A Darcy. Subs: A Magill 0-1 for R Boyle (45), J Grant for A Magee (48). Yellow cards: R McAleenan (13), P Murdock (19), Ciaran McCartan (55).
Referee: Adrian Sharvin (Bright).