All-Ireland Champions, now Down Champions, with no fewer than eight players holding 11 championship medals in a competitive county.
At every stretch, Kilcoo Eoghan Ruadh is a sporting phenomenon, easily taking the Kings of Ulster crown from Crossmaglen Rangers.
The dream became reality. But despite all the record-breaking results – with the famous eighth passing John ‘Shorty’ Treanor of Burren, who held 10 winners’ medals – a new generation had grown up as instant winners.
While Aidan Branagan won his first Frank O’Hare by the time he was 27, while Conor Laverty was 24, their princely full-back Ryan McEvoy is just 21 and has four championship medals.
“It’s weird,” says McEvoy.
“At 21 you feel experienced. Almost like getting old. But every year you build more into the team and you have guys like Conor Laverty, Aidan Branagan, Niall Branagan, they’re coming into their last years and some of us younger guys have to step up.
“I’ll do my best for that. Being a leader and seeing the younger guys come through and push the older guys too.
The difference in Kilcoo is significant. While they had a connection with manager Mickey Moran that went beyond most relationships in the sport, they had continuity with selectors Conleith Gilligan and Richard Thornton, who emerged as the key men on the line.
“It’s definitely a change. Mickey Moran is one of the greatest managers in the history of the GAA and the two boys definitely learned a lot from him over the past year,” says McEvoy.
“But we’re just doing what Kilcoo always does. We sit down and analyze. we work hard Richie and Conleith are two great men.
“Mickey was a huge loss to us but these guys learned so much from him. You are unbelievable. Anything they ask of us, we will do, and anything we ask of them, they will do for us.”
The expectations outside the camp are massive. Ahead of Sunday’s final, they had a price of 1/7 to win, a bet sure to blow many coupons as the game went into overtime.
However, according to McEvoy, this is something that others need to worry about and think about.
“I wouldn’t say it bothers us. But we know what we expect of ourselves. We always try to do our best and get results. We did that this year,” said the carpenter.
“Maybe we didn’t take it easy for ourselves, but victory is all that counts for us and thank God we’ve crossed the finish line again.”
With several games coming to an end this year, even on penalties in a previous round against Clonduff, question marks have been looming over Kilcoo’s appetite after winning the All-Ireland in February.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a pressure. We always go out and take it one game at a time. We can’t look past anyone, especially if someone might see it as an easy game,” says McEvoy.
“The Down Championship is never an easy game. There’s always a bit of drama and some twists.”
And the record holders?
“It’s huge. These guys have worked hard and solid for over 20 years trying to earn respect.
“And the record is just incredible. I’m just happy for them. You deserve every single one of them, and maybe more.”
With Down pulling Donegal into the Ulster Championship next spring, a number of counties are already back to training together.
Tables will be spinning like crazy for Laverty over the next few weeks, but he insists he was betting on it when he took the job.
“Listen,” Laverty explained, “I’m very fortunate to have a very supportive wife and family. The four older boys are all coming to senior training now, so it’s not like you’re going to leave the house and leave my wife with a slap in the face from kids going crazy around the house.
“They come to seniors training, we leave the house at six-fifteen and might not be back until after nine, so it’s a rush to do homework and stuff. But it’s a way of life.
“I knew there was a chance November-December could be a busy time, but somewhere in the back of my mind I was hoping it would be busy. That is honest. Whenever it happened I said if it’s not full I’ll be absolutely disappointed so I’ve prepared for it and I’m looking forward to the next few weeks.”
https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/sport/gaa/kevin-mcevoy-hails-kilcoo-culture-after-all-ireland-champions-celebrate-another-down-championship-42074338.html Kevin McEvoy hails Kilcoo culture after All Ireland champions celebrate another Down Championship