Killygarry edge out Stars in brilliant contest

Senior Football Championship quarter-final

Killygarry 2-16

Kingscourt Stars 2-15

Paul Fitzpatrick at Kingspan Breffni

If every game of football was as entertaining as this, it would be standing room only at Breffni Park every week.

This 68 minutes of action had everything – high fielding, hard hitting, fantastic scores, ingenuity, goals and even sideshows off the ball.

The highlights? Where to start? In perfect conditions, both sides went at it from the word go. Killygarry should have been a few points ahead after the first quarter, registering five wides and dropping another two shot shorts, as Kingscourt lived dangerously.

Jody Devine’s team waltzed through for a super goal by Daniel Walsh to move four clear on 18 minutes but Kingscourt replied with a virtuoso goal of their own from Joe Dillon, who was on fire.

Killygarry responded well to that major with two points but the Stars finished the half superbly with 1-3 unanswered, the goal coming directly from a 13-metre free from Barry Reilly, whose audacity and execution embodied what was just a brilliant advertisement for football.

In the end, it came down to the wire. A marvellous point from Jordan Morris drew the Stars level in injury time but Killygarry mounted one more late attack, won a free and the outstanding Conor Smith held his nerve to knock it over and secure the Crubany-based side’s passage to the last four.

The tone was set from the first passage of play. Jordan Morris gathered possession from the throw-in, played a one-two and belted over.

Oisin Brady, who had a terrific match before picking up a straight red card late on, sent over the first of his eight points with a free after a foul on Smith. Brady then fired over from play and when ref Conor Dourneen spotted a foul off the ball on Smith, added another free.

But the wides were already mounting up for Killygarry and a more efficient Kingscourt punished them. Morris was fouled and Reilly converted; then Dillon turned sharply and fisted over to tie the game.

Smith won and Brady converted a free before Killygarry landed the first of the match’s four high-quality goals when Conor Bates drove through the heart of the Stars defence and Walsh hit the net with a perfect finish.

Kingscourt replied with a trademark point from Peter Corrigan but Martin Reilly, who was well shadowed by Paddy Meade for the most part, hooked over a good point, again after a Smith lay-off.

Back came Kingscourt. A big fetch from Corrigan saw the ball worked to Dillon, in heavy traffic, who sold two dummies and sent a smart finish across his body for a brilliant goal.

There was no time to blink. Smith fisted over, then won a high ball from Brady between two defenders and converted the resulting mark.

Less than 30 seconds later, Dillon won the ball spectacularly and fed Reilly, who stroked over in trademark fashion, and the Stars were on the up again. Dillon scored from play and then Morris picked up possession at midfield and tore through before slotting over his second.

Then came a most memorable goal. Dillon won a pass from Barry Tully and was fouled. Reilly stepped up 14 metres out, to the right of goal, and just as the whole stadium thought he was about to tap it over the bar, planted the ball in the top corner of the net.

That proved to be the final score of a thrilling, breathless first half as Kingscourt went in leading by 2-7 to 1-7. The tempo had to drop a little and it did in the third quarter but the sides kept exchanging blows and summoned up a dramatic finale.

Smith found sub Ben Mooney, who pointed with his first touch, but sublime skill from Morris, who dribbled the ball basketball-style between his legs, created a chance for Corrigan to fist over.

Daragh Lovett and Morris (free) traded scores before a point from Brady and a Morris mark left it 2-10 to 1-10 with 20 minutes remaining – in the words of Micheál O’Hehir, hallelujah!

Rarely are so many forwards playing so well in the same match. Brady picked out Smith in the right corner and he curled over with the left; two minutes later, Smith was taken down and Brady scored the free.

It was now a one-point game and the collisions were ferocious. Cian Shekleton won a free which Morris converted well but Killygarry replied instantly, Lovett grabbing a loose ball and splitting the posts.

Then came the key score. Mark McDermott, Mooney and Smith combined; the latter squared the ball to the back post and Martin Reilly was waiting to palm to the net.

Now, Killygarry led by two with 10 to go. A great ball from Darragh Kennedy to Smith saw him fire over with the left; at the other end, Dillon took a pass from Burke but his powerful left-footed shot was acrobatically saved by Paddy Galligan at the expense of a point.

By now, the pace was frenetic. Alan Clarke won a high ball, and a free, and Morris did the needful but at the other end, Kingscourt failed to deal with a high ball and poacher Lovett again capitalised.

That left Killygarry two in front on 56 minutes. Another Morris free, after a foul on Shekleton, and an outrageous score from the left wing by the Meath senior tied the game two minutes into injury time.

Killygarry lost Reilly to a second yellow and Brady to a red and it seemed a replay would be needed to separate the sides. But a late free for a foul on McDermott – it seemed soft to our eyes, although the ref did a god job in a very fast-paced game – was converted by Smith.

Kingscourt had a late chance but Corrigan’s effort drifted to the right and that was that, curtain down on the match of the season so far.

Kingscourt Stars: Darragh McKenna, Cathal McKeown, Shane Gray, Killian Farrelly, Kevin Curtis, Padraig Faulkner, Paddy Meade, Peter Corrigan (0-2), Sean Burke, John Oates, Barry Reilly (1-2, 1-1f), Barry Tully, Jordan Morris (0-8, 4f, 1m), Alan Clarke, Joe Dillon (1-3)

Subs: Padraig Donagh for J Oates (22 mins), Adam Sheriff for K Farrelly (30), Cian Shekleton for B Reilly (37), Shane Duffy for K Curtis (52), Terry Reilly for A Sheriff (60)

Killygarry: Paddy Galligan, Conor Connolly, Conor Bates, Daryl Dunne, Daryl McKenna, Cian Reilly, Darragh Kennedy, Mattie McKenna, Daniel Walsh (1-0), Ross Sheridan, Martin Reilly (1-1), Mark McDermott, Daragh Lovett (0-3), Oisin Brady (0-6, 4f), Conor Smith (0-5, 3f, 1m)

Subs: Ben Mooney (0-1) for D McKenna (ht), Kevin Lovett for R Sheridan (43), Anselm Lovett for D Dunne (58)

Ref: Conor Dourneen