Kilcoo 3-14 Enniskillen Gaels 1-09

All-Ireland champions Kilcoo powered into another Ulster final with a comfortable win over Enniskillen Gaels at the Athletic Grounds.

The Down men had all the hard work done by the halfway stage, turning around with a commanding 13-point lead after playing with the assistance of a strong breeze.

The Fermanagh champions did press strongly for lengthy stretches of the second half, but lacked the cutting edge to seriously trouble a solid Kilcoo side that combined intensity and work-rate with clever movement and clinical finishing.

Two first half Shealan Johnston goals had them in a comfortable position at the interval, and Aaron Morgan added a third in response to Eoin Beacom's second-half strike as the champions marched on.

Johnston buried his first goal after ten minutes, collecting Miceal Rooney's assist after Tiernan Fettes had dispossessed Neil McDermott.

Kilcoo’s intensity in the challenge and fierce tackling made life almost impossible for an Enniskillen side that was already struggling to make headway against a strong wind, but they almost grabbed a freak goal at the end of the opening quarter.

John Reihill’s mis-hit mark was just inches from finding the net, coming back off an upright to be cleared by a relieved defence that had otherwise been watertight.

Brandon Horan and Richard O’Callaghan won plenty of possession around the middle, but there were simply no outlets, every yellow shirt suffocated by a well drilled unit that closed off all avenues of progress.

Reihill did manage to cut through, and after appearing to have been dispossessed, regained possession to punch over the Gaels’ only score of the first half.

Ryan McEvoy of Kilcoo in action against Brandon Horan of Enniskillen Gaels

But the Magpies were unruffled, and responded with a volley of scores, two of them inspirational efforts from brilliant centre half-back Daryl Branagan, with Ceilum Doherty, Conor Laverty and Aaron Branagan also on target.

Enniskillen goalkeeper Cian Newman made a series of bursts from his area, and was eventually punished, as his offload went straight to Laverty, who sent Shealan Johnston in to plant the ball in the net for his second just before half-time.

The defending champions led by 2-08 to 0-01 at the interval, but came under sustained pressure in the early stages of the second half, with Eoin Beacom off the bench to add a spark to the Enniskillen attack.

He banged over a couple of classy scores, with Conor Watson and Richard O'Callaghan also hitting the target, but the Fermanagh men were almost caught at the back as they committed more men forward.

Laverty found the space to send Ryan Johnston through, but Newman responded with a terrific save.

Beacom now stood apart as the outstanding attacker on the field, the man that carried the greatest threat, and he gave his side fresh hope with a brilliant 45th-minute goal, sent to the bottom corner of the net like a bullet after creating a half chance out of broken possession.

But they were vulnerable to the breakaway, and Kilcoo punished the Gaels seven minutes later as Laverty and Doherty combined out on the left to send midfielder Aaron Morgan in to punch home their third goal.

Kilcoo defend their goal-line late in the game

Now ten points clear, it was a straightforward push for the finish line, with no risks and minimal fuss as they stood firm against an Enniskillen side that continued to press through Horan, Beacom, Jack Tierney and Reihill.

Horan, Beacom and Conor Love did land scores, but the efficiency of the Down men continued to shine, with Doherty, Miceal Rooney and Devlin, with a fourth converted free, all hitting the target in the closing stages.

Kilcoo: N Kane; N Branagan, R McEvoy, A Branagan (0-01, 0-01m); T Fettes, D Branagan (0-02), M Rooney (0-01); Aaron Morgan (1-00), Anthony Morgan; C Doherty (0-02), R Johnston (0-01), S Johnston (2-01); C Laverty (0-01), J Johnston, P Devlin (0-04, 0-04fs).

Subs: E Branagan (0-01) for A Branagan (ht), Aidan Brangan for Morgan (50), G McEvoy for J Johnston (58), M Hynes for S Johnston (58), S Og McCusker for Laverty (59).

Enniskillen Gaels: C Newman; J Tierney, A Nolan, J Ferguson; J Horan (0-01), J Cassidy, C Watson (0-01); B Horan, R O’Callaghan (0-02); N McDermott, R McDonald, C McShea; C Love (0-01, 0-01f), J Reihill (0-01), C Smith.

Subs: P Reihill for McDermott (20), E Beacom (1-03, 0-01f) for Smith (h-t), C Quinn for Ferguson (48), R Bogue for Watson (48), P Cassidy for McDonald (59).

Referee: S Hurson (Tyrone).