'In Kilcoo, if you don't play football, you are a stranger in the village'

'In Kilcoo, if you don't play football, you are a stranger in the village'

Kilcoo brothers, from left, Niall Branagan, Aaron Branagan, Aidan Branagan, Eugene Branagan and Daryl Branagan celebrate with the Andy Merrigan Cup. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

After the manic energy of last week, the nerves and the frenzy, they’ll enjoy the opportunity to breathe out around Kilcoo now.

“Grown men were telling you they hadn’t had their dinner in a few nights through nerves,” smiled Kilcoo defender Aaron Branagan. “I run the gym and people in Kilcoo are completely unwise, I am not joking you.

"They talk more about the football than me, saying things like, ‘I am not going to go to class this week, just too nervous’.

“That’s just Kilcoo, you couldn’t have gone anywhere but somebody was mentioning it to you.”

Branagan, one of five brothers involved in Saturday’s landmark triumph, admitted that expectation and desperation for success probably affected the players initially. The game was almost gone from them at half-time yet by the time they’d forced extra-time, the mood had shifted.

“We said in the huddle for extra-time, ‘this is what we do, it’s our time’. 

Our training, we always finish with really hard running, so we know there is always that wee bit left in the tank.

As if to underline the football obsession in Kilcoo, Branagan quit alcohol six years ago to focus on the game.

“In Kilcoo, if you don’t play football, you are a stranger in the village,” he said. “I stopped drinking a while back, because I had a goal.”

Kilmacud Crokes manager Robbie Brennan joked about heading for a stiff drink himself after the punishing defeat.

“It’s obviously a disappointed dressing room, the lads are in tears,” said Brennan.

“I said to them, and it’s not a lie, that part of me is on the floor that we’ve just lost the All-Ireland but the Dublin championship is literally on the horizon and we are really, really excited about seeing if we can go back to back in Dublin. 

"That’s not something I just said to the lads to pick them up, that’s the truth.”

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