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Kilmacud manager: 'It’s gut-wrenching, the lads are in tears'

Kilmacud Crokes had the All-Ireland title within their grasp until Kilcoo’s late intervention.

Kilmacud Crokes manager Robbie Brennan during the game.
Kilmacud Crokes manager Robbie Brennan during the game.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

TO LOSE AN All-Ireland final by conceding a goal in stoppage-time of extra-time was an extremely cruel ending for Kilmacud Crokes.

They led by seven early in the second-half and even after Kilcoo rallied impressively to force an extra 20 minutes, the Dublin champions grasped control of the match once again in extra-time.

They were two in front in the 81st minute when Ryan Johnston scored a close range goal that earned him iconic status in Kilcoo.

“It’s gut-wrenching, it’s not quite like 2018 again,” said Kilmacud boss Robbie Brennan after, referencing their shock Leinster final loss to Mullinalaghta over three years ago.

“Obviously a good game to watch. I’m not sure what it was like as a spectacle but it’s probably hard to lose it in those terms at the very end, but fair play to Kilcoo for sticking at it, they never gave up.

“They pushed up an awful lot more than they had been. They seemed reluctant enough at times to really go at it and I think they did that a little bit more in the second half, which put us under a little bit more pressure.

“And yet minus the goal I still think we probably would have got the job done. But nothing to do on Conor (Ferris). Conor has been magnificent for us all year – as I said to him on the pitch, he was in tears, but he’s the reason we are here because he has had a fantastic season. That’s it, the way the cookie crumbles.”

With Kilcoo sitting deep in their defensive shell, Kilmacud’s patience and hard running saw them cut through with some excellent scores.

“The first half we said we’d go for the jugular, being a final that we’d go at it and wouldn’t sit back, when we could we’d take it to them, which I think we did pretty well. At half-time we spoke about the fact they’d obviously press up more because they were behind and we’d have to be more careful on the ball.

“Again, I thought we did that pretty well but then when the goal went in then we lost that bit of momentum. I still think we wrestled it back pretty well, we were still ahead at that stage so we weren’t probably panicking – might have looked it a bit but we were still trying to keep our head at that stage. Obviously a sucker-punch at the very end.”

Craig Dias, their best performer at midfield until cramp forced him off at the end of normal-time, kicked a point off either foot and went agonisingly close to scoring a goal shortly after half-time that would have iced the game. 

“I think if Craig had scored the goal at 1-8 to 0-2 I think that probably would have been the game, to be honest.

“Having said that, at 0-8 to 0-2 at half-time I was pretty comfortable and happy where we were at, and being honest in injury-time I thought we had it.

“I was looking at the clock, but as soon as I saw the ball going back into play I had a bit of a panic moment – you could sense something was going to play and obviously it did.”

Asked what he said to his players after the final whistle, Brennan remarked: “It’s obviously a disappointed dressing-room, the lads are in tears and all of that.

“I said to them, and it’s not a lie, part of me is over here 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.

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“That’s not something I said to the lads just to pick them up, that’s the truth. We are a very small part of what the club is doing, it’s in a great position at the moment, there are huge numbers coming through at underage and a great buy-in.

“So while today was important, ultimately it is about the next two, three, four, five years for the club to try stay at the top table. It doesn’t mean we’ll be back in All-Irelands every year but it’s important we stay there.

“So our focus will switch after a couple of weeks straight back to Dublin and see if we can go back-to-back, which has only ever been done once in the club, so that’s our target and we’ll see can we do it.”

At the final whistle and before celebrating with his team, Kilcoo manager Mickey Moran sought out Brennan for a hug on the sideline. 

“He’s a brilliant GAA man, and I think he’s deserving of his All-Ireland, he has a magnificent record and he’s got a good crew with him there as well with Conleith,” said Brennan.

“They went through heartbreak themselves against Corofin and they are back here again, and more power to them, they deserved it today.”

About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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