No ask too great for dedicated Kilcoo panel

Kilcoo trained on New Year’s Eve night and would have trained on Christmas Day too if their management team hadn’t called a halt.

No ask too great for dedicated Kilcoo panel

Kilcoo trained on New Year’s Eve night and would have trained on Christmas Day too if their management team hadn’t called a halt.

Going the extra mile is what this Down club does and the small matter of the festive season wasn’t going to get in the way of their quest for All-Ireland glory once they’d finally ended a decade-long pursuit for a first Ulster title.

“They wanted to train on Christmas Day but even we had more sense than that,” says Kilcoo assistant manager Conleith Gilligan.

“We have tried to keep everything normal. We were out on Boxing Day because that was their normal training day.

“We trained on New Year’s Eve because that was the normal night. Even this week we won’t do anything different.”

Gilligan and fellow assistant Paul Devlin accepted Mickey Moran’s invitation to join him in Kilcoo last year.

Having won three Ulster titles in four years with Slaughtneil and lost two All-Ireland finals — to Sunday’s opponents Corofin (2015) and Dr Crokes (2017) — Moran can spot a club going places, even if his record in All-Ireland finals is not what he’d like it to be.

“The fact Mickey has been there a couple of times and hasn’t won is a massive experience to bring to the boys because he has seen it from the other end,” Gilligan said.

“It’s something he probably doesn’t dwell on but we are all a measure of our experiences good and bad and you’re always better for the experience regardless of the outcome.

“Mickey is brilliant with the boys and they can relate to him so well.

“The amazing thing is the 18-year-olds have as much craic with him as the older boys. It is a skill that very few people I have ever come across would have but he has it.

“It’s hard to put your finger on it. You can’t quantify the special quality he brings.”

Gilligan, an All-Ireland club winner with Ballinderry in 2002, is spending some of the build-up to Sunday’s AIB All-Ireland SFC decider keeping an eye on the older Kilcoo players.

“It will be easier for the younger players,” he says.

“I was too young to appreciate the gravity of it when Ballinderry won.

“I was only 20. If I was in the same situation now it would be very different so it’s about trying to keep the younger players grounded.

You have to embrace it because it is very special but for the players it’s still about getting down to the game and remembering everything you’ve done to get you here.

The short turnaround from the Ulster final to the All-Ireland semi-final against Ballyboden St Enda’s didn’t do Kilcoo any harm.

They were worthy winners in Cavan and going to the final as underdogs for the third game in a row is exactly how they like it.

The traditional St Patrick’s Day club final date may be gone forever, but this condensed championship is as new to Corofin as it is to Kilcoo.

So will it suit the ‘newbies’?

“You won’t know until afterwards,” insists Gilligan.

“If you win it was, and if you don’t it wasn’t. With the final being two weeks after the semi-final we didn’t have time to dwell on Ballyboden or celebrate that because Corofin had already won, so you didn’t have a day’s grace.

“You knew who you were playing and straight away the gravity of what awaited you sort of hit you.

“To play a team chasing a three in a row which has never been done and (to face) possibly the greatest club team of all time, it just makes the challenge so much more special.

“You have to put that to the back of your mind and do all the things that got you here in the first place.”

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