Ramor United 1-08 Kilcoo 3-13

Kilcoo's defence of their 2019 Ulster title began with a convincing 11-point win over Cavan’s Ramor United.

Kilcoo were slick in attack and dogged in defence with Paul Devlin orchestrating much of the pivotal long-range passing, while Niall Branagan was immense in defence while that man Jerome Johnston bagged two goals.

The game was two minutes old when Kilcoo’s Anthony Morgan opened the scoring but minutes later Ramor stormed in front. First James Brady converted his mark and with five minutes on the clock and then Sean McEvoy turned Aaron Branagan before speeding between Niall Branagan and Miceal Rooney and lashing low inside the near post for a cracking goal.

Kilcoo were caught cold but their response was rapid with Jerome Johnston and Ceilum Doherty chipping in with points, followed by the former’s stunning ninth-minute goal.

By the first water-break the Magpies were ahead by five points. Shealan Johnston’s shot zipped over the bar when it could have crept under, while Ryan Johnston’s converted free and Doherty’s second point kept the Magpies well on top to lead 1-06 to 1-01.

The second quarter only brought one more score and that came from United’s Sean McEvoy. Ramor’s James Brady kicked a few wides while at the other end both Shealan Johnston and Dylan Ward missed gilt-edged goal chances. The Cavan champions pressed but they couldn’t get through Kilcoo’s hard-working defensive packs.

Ramor started the second half brightly with Brady (free), McEvoy and Cathal Maguire on target within the opening three minutes to leave only a point between the teams, but that’s as good as it got.

Kilcoo opened the Ramor defence up. Two Paul Devlin frees pushed them further ahead but James Brady almost cancelled that out when his whippet like shot crashed off the near post. And in a game of inches Jerome Johnston’s high shot curled just inside the post and Eugene Branagan’s effort dropped over as the Magpies started putting some distance between themselves and their opponents.

The killer blow came after 45 minutes. Kilcoo players were lining up to shoot but Eugene Branagan chose to pass to Doherty who coolly picked his spot into the net. Devlin converted his third point with the last kick of the quarter to give the Magpies a commanding nine-point lead.

Gareth Mannion’s black card on 48 minutes left Ramor with 14 players for the next ten minutes but by then the game was up. Ward got on Kilcoo’s scoresheet and Jerome Johnston scored his second goal five minutes from time.

Ramor’s McEvoy and Paddy McNamee and Kilcoo’s Doherty tagged on points but the game was up long before Niall Cullen’s final whistle.

And Kilcoo are still the team to beat in Ulster.

Ramor United: Liam Brady, Damien Barkey, Brian O’Connell, Eoin Somerville, Adam O’Connell, Jack Brady, Mark Magee, Laurence Caffrey, Enda Maguire, Ben Smith, Simon Cadden, Cathal Maguire (0-01), James Brady (0-02, 0-01 m, 0-01 free), Ado Cole, Sean McEvoy (1-04, 0-01 free).

Subs: Gareth Mannion for C Maguire (42), Killian Maguire for Caffrey (42), Paddy McNamee (0-01) for Smith (49), James Bradley for Cadden (53), Lorcan Lynch for A O’Donnell (55).

Kilcoo: Niall Kane, Niall Branagan, Ryan McEvoy (0-01, 0-01 free), Aaron Branagan, Michael Rooney, Anthony Morgan (0-01), Eugene Branagan (0-01), Dylan Ward (0-01), Aaron Morgan, Ceilum Doherty (1-03), Jerome Johnston (2-02), Shealan Johnston (0-01), Conor Laverty, Ryan Johnston, Paul Devlin (0-03, 0-03 frees).

Subs: Aidan Branagan for Aaron Morgan (51), Tiernan Fettes for R Johnston (51), Christopher Rooney for Aaron Branagan (55), Macdarragh Hynes for M Rooney (55), Justin Clarke for J Johnston (58).

Referee: Niall Cullen (Fermanagh).