Ulster Club SFC semi-final: Kilcoo beat Derrygonnelly to reach decider

Aaron Branagan netted a crucial goal as Kilcoo beat Derrygonnelly by two points
Aaron Branagan netted a crucial goal as Kilcoo beat Derrygonnelly by two points

Kilcoo booked their place in the Ulster Club SFC decider with a 1-8 to 0-9 win over Derrygonnelly Harps in a thrilling semi-final at the Athletic Grounds.

Aaron Branagan's 38th-minute goal proved decisive as Kilcoo staved off a late Derrygonnelly fightback.

Both sides were reduced to 14 men in the second half with Derrygonnelly's Lee Jones and Kilcoo's Jerome Johnston both receiving two yellow cards.

Kilcoo will face Donegal champions Naomh Conaill in the final.

Derrygonnelly started well with Garvan McGinley and Kevin Cassidy kicking early scores before Kilcoo hit back through Ryan McEvoy.

In one of the game's biggest moments, Kilcoo 'keeper Martin McCourt made an exceptional diving save to deny Shane McGullion a goal after six minutes.

From there, Derrygonnelly were starved of scores as Kilcoo grew into the game impressively. Aaron Branagan kicked a point before Paul Devlin added his side's third to nudge the Magpies ahead.

Kilcoo survived a late Derrygonnelly comeback to edge a thrilling contest in Armagh
Kilcoo survived a late Derrygonnelly comeback to edge a thrilling contest in Armagh

Both sides defended well during a physical first half which culminated in Jerome Johnston kicking a brilliant point from play to give Kilcoo a two-point lead at the break.

Kilcoo started the second half with purpose and would have had a goal on 33 minutes had it not been for the last-ditch heroics of Tiernan Daly, who threw himself in front of Ryan Johnston's shot.

Devlin kicked his second score of the day before Derrygonnelly notched their first point in over 30 minutes of play from Garvan Jones.

Declan Cassidy then drove the ball over the bar before a Garvan Jones free levelled matters on 37 minutes.

However, having built up some momentum, Derrygonnelly were caught napping at a Kilcoo free as Conor Laverty acted quickly to pick out the run of Anthony Morgan, who teed up Branagan for the goal.

McEvoy's score opened up a four-point gap but the Fermanagh side refused to lie down as Stephen McGullion reduced the arrears to three.

With the temperature rising, Lee Jones received his second yellow card following a clash with Jerome Johnston. A minute later, Johnston - booked in that collision - picked up his own second yellow for a high tackle on Conall Jones to leave both sides on 14 men.

Eugene Branagan restored Kilcoo's four-point advantage before Garvan Jones and Conall Jones resurrected Derrygonnelly hopes of a comeback heading into stoppage-time.

Jack Love brought the Harps to within one with a well-taken point before Ryan Johnston fisted a score in the seventh minute of added time to seal the win for Kilcoo and set up a provincial decider against Naomh Conaill, where they will look to bury the ghosts of their 2012 and 2016 defeats by Crossmaglen and Slaughtneil respectively.

Kilcoo goalscorer Aaron Branagan speaking to RTE 2:

"We tend to leave it late, but we're getting over the line and we know how to dog out games. It was a very tough game, but that's the way we like it. We got a look at them [Naomh Conaill] on Saturday night so we know what we have to do.

"It means everything. Football is absolutely everything in Kilcoo so to get here again is brilliant."

Highlights of both Ulster Club SFC semi-finals will be available on the BBC iPlayer from Monday evening.

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