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16th Jan 2022

Daryl Branagan channels his inner magician as magical goal helps Kilcoo retain Ulster title

Lee Costello

Kilcoo 3-10 Derrygonelly 0-03

Kilcoo are Ulster champions yet again, as they comfortably cruise past Derrygonnelly in the provincial final.

The Down champions were on top from the beginning, with Conor Laverty pulling the strings in the forward line, and Jerome Johnston in particular proving to be the main threat.

Just before the half time whistle was blew, Laverty supplied Daryl Branagan with a handpass that should almost be trademarked by the Down u20 manager.

A perfectly timed and weighed ball into his teammate left Branagan in an advantageous situation right in front of the goal, but the forward still has loads to do.

He looked prime to pull the trigger early, only to cut back with a bounce of the ball, leaving one Derrygonnelly man on the floor, then the entirety of Ulster thought he was about to let it fly, until he dropped the shoulder again, flooring yet another defender.

With two dummies signed, sealed and bought by the Fermanagh champions, the Kilcoo star finally put them out of their misery by putting the ball in the back of the net.

In a game that was fairly hard to watch due to a lack of competitiveness and phases of defensive football from both teams, Branagan’s goal proved to be the highlight of this Ulster final.

In the second half the masters of Down continued their dominance, playing keep-ball, and slowly killing off the Fermanagh side as they stretched into a comfortable lead.

Try as they might, those in purple and yellow just could not break through the mass defence of Kilcoo, as the ball would get sent in, gobbled up and then fired back with twice the ferocity.

It was like watching someone whack a tennis ball off the wall and seeing it ricochet back at them, and in some ways, that would have been just as entertaining to watch.

Two late Kilcoo goals from Ceilum Doherty and Shealin Johnston, all but confirmed the inevitable, especially as Derrygonnelly only managed to register a single point in the second half.

However, this writer is forever the optimist, and so chooses to focus on the magic displayed by Branagan to create his goal in the first half.

Moments like those need to be applauded, appreciated and encouraged – every young GAA fan who saw that should be out in their back gardens dropping the shoulder and dancing past their siblings, trying to replicate the magic.

Kilcoo are now through to the All-Ireland semi final, and having reached the final in 2019 only to fall short, they will be hoping to go one better this time.

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