Kilcoo have been coming.
They’ve been knocking on the door for Ulster for quite some time now after ending a 73-year wait for a county title back in 2009. After losing two Ulster club finals, they finally got over the line in 2019 and now stand one game away from an All-Ireland club final.
It’s been a remarkable rise for the Down club who owned the decade within their county confines. However, All-Ireland winners Crossmaglen would prove to the bane in their side on the provincial trail. Emulating a club like Crossmaglen is something that everyone aspires too including Kilcoo.
Despite losing to them on a few occasions there has always been a respect there says club captain Aidan Brannigan. According to the former Down player, this stems from a chat that John McEntee had with a then “average” Kilcoo set up in a pub almost 17 years ago.
“John McEntee gave us a talk one night, I actually thought it was Tony McEntee at the time [laughs], I was talking to John one day and I said: ‘It actually started from your fella.’
“We were sitting in a pub one night and we were a very, very average team. And he talked about them [Crossmaglen] being an average team who went on to win All-Irelands and we were sitting there and some of us were saying: ‘We can do that lads.’
“I remember that night, I was sitting there half-cut and I’d say I’ve never been drunk since. He turned me that night, the speech was that good. It was unbelievable and everybody was saying, ‘We actually could do that’.
“We’d a brilliant brand of football coming through and we had a load of players the right age. Everybody was just breaking onto the senior panel and there was no reason we couldn’t win Down or win Ulster.
“And at that stage, we hadn’t won the Down championship in I don’t know 70 or 80 years. It was a new era coming through after some guys had retired, so it was great for us to win Ulster even for them who had just retired and put in so much but had just missed out. But that night was just one night you couldn’t forget and you couldn’t have anything but admiration for anybody who was doing that.
“I was trying to work out one night there how long ago that would have been. It could have been 16 years ago and that’s how long it’s took. Could be more, maybe 17 years ago.”
It’s funny how things work out. It’s taken a while but Kilcoo are one step away from emulating Ulster’s finest.