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Kilcoo hope to steer clear of more late drama: Gilligan

Clear plan: Conleith Gilligan is keen to wrap things up early
Clear plan: Conleith Gilligan is keen to wrap things up early
John Campbell

By John Campbell

The Kilcoo management team of Mickey Moran and Conleith Gilligan both watch 'The Late, Late Show' on RTE when they can.

It provides a respite after what is normally a heavy week's training in advance of an important weekend game.

But what the duo would prefer not to see is their team's version of their own late, late show which has seen them dice with danger on their way into Sunday's Ulster Club Senior Football Championship final against Donegal champions Naomh Conaill.

In the Down decider against St Peter's, Warrenpoint, Kilcoo were pushed to the limit before scrambling over the line by 0-15 to 1-11.

Then, in their Ulster Championship Quarter-Final, Kilcoo were forced to withstand a robust late blitz from O'Donovan Rossa, Magherafelt in edging to a 1-11 to 0-9 win before shredding the nerves of their fans in chiselling out a 1-8 to 0-9 victory over Derrygonnelly.

Both Moran and Gilligan accept their team tends to "live dangerously" and now that they are about to enter the arena to face a Naomh Conaill side that have elevated tenacity to an art form, to infer that they are wary of the challenge would be an understatement.

"When we were four points up against Derrygonnelly we allowed them back into the game but we knew that they were going to be very strong at the end," pointed out Gilligan.

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"In fairness, we have grown accustomed to tight finishes but if we could avoid a late, late show this Sunday that would be great."

The manner in which Naomh Conaill eventually shepherded Gaoth Dobhair off their Donegal throne after three intense games followed by the way in which they fended off the challenge of Castlerahan and Clontibret suggest that playing themselves to a standstill at Healy Park, Omagh will come naturally.

It was there, of course, that they ruined the provincial script for John McEntee's Clontibret but they are about to come up against a side for whom leaving everything on the pitch is par for the course.

Yet Aaron Branagan, who scored the only goal of the game in Kilcoo's eclipse of Derrygonnelly, nonetheless employs earthy language in helping to set out his team's stall.

"We tend to leave it late, but we're getting over the line and we know how to dog out games," insisted Branagan. "It was a very tough game against Derrygonnelly but that's the way we like it. We know what we have to do."

Kilcoo's experience, resilience and flair can prove key weapons against a Naomh Conaill side that in Ciaran Thompson and Leo McLoone boast a granite-hard midfield pairing.

Their brief will be to supply Eoghan McGettigan, Brendan McDyer and Charlie McGuinness in particular with ammunition.

Skipper Thompson is fully aware of Kilcoo's yearning to become the cream of the Ulster crop but has no intention of facilitating the Mourne side in trying to achieve this goal.

"We just kept driving on against Clontibret and we got there in the end," pointed out Thompson.

"We hope to apply the same formula on Sunday."

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