Kilcoo (Down) 2-11 Naomh Conaill (Donegal) 2-9
Kilcoo won their first Ulster Club SFC title with a narrow win over Naomh Conaill at Healy Park.
Aidan Branagan's goal gave the Down men a seven points lead, but late Naomh Conaill goals from Charles McGuinness and Jeaic McKelvey left just a point in it at the break, 1-8 to 2-4.
Daryl Branagan rifled home a second Kilcoo goal on 38 minutes, and despite going 21 minutes without a score, they held out for a narrow success in their third appearance in the decider since 2012.
The Donegal men led for only a brief spell of the opening half, when Charles McGuinness hit the target, thanks to a long ball strategy that was to prove so vital for them as the contest wore on.
Soon the Mourne champions settled into a controlled rhythm, with Eugene Branagan's direct running and the industry of Ryan Johnston, along with the movement of Paul Devlin and Conor Laverty, propelling waves of attack.
Laverty was the chief tormentor, at the centre of all their best offensive efforts, and as he used his vision and speed of thought, the scores started to flow.
Devlin and Ryan Johnston fired over two each, and by the 24th minute they led by 0-8 to 0-3, with only a slight wind coming off the Sperrins to aid their cause.
Naomh Conaill were struggling to get any momentum, their attack living off scraps, and it was wing back Ethan O’Donnell who ended a 13 minute barren spell.
Another delightful move, involving Daryl Branagan, Laverty’s quick hands and Niall McEvoy ended with skipper Aidan Branagan palming home a 28th minute goal, and this final looked over as a contest at 1-8 to 0-4.
But the Down champions displayed a vulnerability to a direct approach, and Glenties plundered two goals late in the half, both finished from close range by McGuinness and Jeaic McKelvey to force a dramatic turnaround.
Just a point separated the sides at the break, Kilcoo ahead by 1-8 to 2-4, and in a thumping start to the second half, they hit 1-2 to regain control of their own destiny.
📽 See highlights of today's @AIB_GAA Ulster Football Senior Club Championship Final between @KilcooGAC and @NaomhConaillGAApic.twitter.com/X35ckURdxy— Ulster GAA (@UlsterGAA) December 1, 2019
It was the brilliant Daryl Branagan who applied a crashing finish to a well worked move, rocketing the ball to the net, with Laverty again the fulcrum.
Ultan Doherty, Anthony Thompson and Eoin Wade performed defiantly in the Glenties defence as the Down men continued to press, and as they broke with pace, they were able to pick off scores through Ciaran Thompson and O’Donnell.
Kilcoo continued to dominate possession, however, but displayed more style than ruthlessness as they strung together a succession of passing movements, many of them breaking down before they got to the shooting zone.
They went 21 minutes without scoring, and a more efficient Naomh Conaill continued to attack on the break with greater levels of efficiency, and another long range Thompson free brought them closer, before his brother Anthony hit the target to level just a point between the sides.
It was the wake-up call Kilcoo needed, and Darryl Branagan brought an element of much-needed directness to their approach as he landed a wonderful point from far out on the right.
The Donegal men pressed desperately in the closing stages, but Aaron Branagan, Niall McEvoy and Aaron Morgan stood tall to deny their efforts to rescue the dream.
Kilcoo: M McCourt; N Branagan, Aaron Branagan, N McEvoy; S Johnston, D Ward, R Johnston (0-02); A Morgan, Aidan Branagan (1-00); D Branagan (1-02), P Devlin (0-02, 1f), E Branagan (0-02); R McEvoy (0-01, f), J Johnston (0-01), C Laverty (0-01).
Subs: J Clarke for E Branagan (56), F McGreevy for R McEvoy (64).
Naomh Conaill: S McGrath; U Doherty, AJ Gallagher, K McGettigan; E O’Donnell (0-02), A Thompson (0-01), E Wade; C Thompson (0-04, 3f), L McLoone; E McGettigan, E Doherty (0-01); J McKelvey (1-00), C McGuinness (1-01), K Gallagher.
Subs: M Boyle for AJ Gallagher (h-t), D Molloy for K Gallagher (50), N Byrne for McGuinness (56), K Gallagher for Doherty (60).
Referee: Sean Hurson (Tyrone).