Once you reach the top, there’s a hunger that drives you to stay there, says Kilcoo chief Conleith Gilligan

Last February he led Mickey Moran up the steps of the Hogan Stand to celebrate Kilcoo’s All-Ireland win. It was here that Conleith Gilligan first found himself as a manager, taking Kilcoo to the Frank O’Hare Cup.

But he wouldn’t be making a big deal out of it.

“You see, it’s being greatly exaggerated,” believes the former Derry player.

“When Mickey left me and Richie took it on together, we felt more than anything that it was our responsibility, the boys were so good.

“But you put in exactly the same amount of effort, whether you’re coaching or directing, and because Mickey was so good and so cooperative, you were at stake for everything.

“It doesn’t feel different at all and I’m just happy for the guys.”

And it might have been the closest they’ve ever won.

“The level of down football sometimes gets bad praise, but the level is so high. We had two overtimes there in a five-game championship. It’s very difficult, you have to be at your best all the time or you’ll get a chin.

“We rode our luck sometimes, but the guys do what they do and they rode it and didn’t panic.”

Once that goal is achieved, all they can do is look to the future. Can they achieve three Peat Ulster titles?

“Perhaps everyone outside of Kilcoo or outside of Down is saying we’re looking further afield, and I keep arguing that we’re not,” he says.

“Honestly, it’s so special and so hard to win your district championship. You never know when you might be back.

“As players, we (Ballinderry) have played back-to-back for Ulster clubs, were surprised by a controversial goal in 2015 and have not been in a district final since. So you see the pitfalls, you see the difficulties.

“Once you’re up there, it’s probably easier to stay there than coming back, because once you’re there it becomes very difficult.”

When asked what’s fueling this incredible hunger, he replies, “The guys ride it, we’re basically just enabling them to do what they want to do, they’re so passionate about it.

“They push it all the time, we’re just trying to steer it in the right direction, but it’s very much player-led.

“Especially the older guys with 11 county titles have been there, made it, they’ve been on the hard edge and they’ve lost a few finals too, so they know how it feels on the other end.”

https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/sport/gaa/down/once-you-reach-the-top-theres-a-hunger-that-drives-you-to-stay-there-says-kilcoo-chief-conleith-gilligan-42071500.html Once you reach the top, there’s a hunger that drives you to stay there, says Kilcoo chief Conleith Gilligan


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