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Young guns can play crucial part in firing Kilcoo to more Ulster Club success, insists Conleith Gilligan

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Dylan Ward is hoping to inspire Kilcoo to further glory

Dylan Ward is hoping to inspire Kilcoo to further glory

Conleith Gilligan believes Kilcoo have found a nice blend

Conleith Gilligan believes Kilcoo have found a nice blend

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Dylan Ward is hoping to inspire Kilcoo to further glory

While surnames such as Branagan and Johnston have tended to dominate the Kilcoo landscape during the team’s ongoing dominance of the Down Senior Football Championship, it’s the emergence of a crop of new names that could prove key to the team retaining the Ulster Club Championship title they won for the first time in 2019.

The provincial series was not staged last year because of the Covid-19 threat but tomorrow Kilcoo will bid to remain on their throne when they face Fermanagh champions Derrygonnelly Harps in the final at the Athletic Grounds, Armagh (3.45pm).

And while the mainstays of the side remain very much in situ, the provincial showpiece fixture offers another opportunity for Kilcoo’s rising stars to shine more brightly than ever.

Ryan McEvoy, Miceal Rooney, Dylan Ward, Shealin Johnston and Aaron Morgan are among those whose blossoming talents have helped to keep Kilcoo as lord of the Mourne manor and it now remains to be seen if they can influence the arrival of a second Ulster title.

McEvoy’s imposing form at full-back, Rooney’s ability to dovetail between defence and attack, Ward’s midfield industry and the creativity and finishing skills of Johnston and Morgan have been hallmarks on a string of Kilcoo performances this year.

Little wonder, then, that manager Mickey Moran and his assistant Conleith Gilligan are convinced that their rapidly emerging corps can showcase their skills against a Derrygonnelly side that will harbour a voracious hunger to take delivery of the Ulster silverware for the first time.

“We have a number of players who have been gaining in experience all the time and showing just how they have been maturing. We feel there is a good blend within the side,” insisted Gilligan.

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Two years ago Galway side Corofin laid waste to Kilcoo’s bid to land a first All-Ireland Club title but that’s a prize that is on the back burner just now.

Derrygonnelly showed in disposing of the challenge of Armagh champions Clann Eireann at the provincial semi-final stage that they have what would be a first Ulster Club title in focus and with Conall Jones, Gary McKenna, Declan Cassidy, Tiernan Daly, Garvan Jones and Ryan Jones all in a rich vein of form, the team will certainly be fired up for battle.


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