After last Thursday’s semi final replay win Stephen Kilcoyne went straight to bed. He had just scored 1-6 against the Joes and Sean O’Mahony’s were into a first final since 1998.
Dreamland stuff for a man dyed in the green and gold wool of Sean O’Mahony’s. Yet he went to bed simply because he had only just returned from a mystery illness and was, in his own words, completely shattered.
In fact Kilcoyne didn’t think he’d be playing football at all this season. He returned to first team action just five weeks ago against town rivals Clan Na Gael in the group stage of the championship.
Previous to that Kilcoyne had been sitting things out, undergoing numerous medical tests to try and solve a problem he was having with his nervous system. It was a troubling and worrying time for Kilcoyne and family.
Eventually though, he got better, and come Sunday the Sean O’Mahony’s full forward will be donning the green and gold in this year’s intermediate final againt St Fechins. The Louth minor star looks back at a difficult few months.
“I was out for seven months. Barely kicked a ball and I was trying to get back fit, but I had a problem with my nervous system and I had to undergo a lot of tests and investigations,” Kilcoyne recounts.
“My first game back was against the Clans and I wasn’t even supposed to come on, but we were losing by a few points.”
Sean O’Mahony’s ended up losing that group match, but it mattered little as a previous victory had guaranteed safe passage to the knock out rounds. What mattered more that afternoon was that Kilcoyne was back - a huge asset for Brendan Nordon’s side.
Kilcoyne’s goal last Thursday against St Joseph’s came with three minutes left after a third nip and tuck game against the Darver/Dromiskin outfit. He remembers the moment and the overwhelming feeling of scoring.
“I looked and the game looked to have fizzled out and people didn’t look to have much steam left. Then I think it was John O’Brien sent in the ball and it was fitsed over and I remember going one on one with the keeper and that was it.”
Did he consider going for a point instead?
“No, I was going for goal. I was yelling at them to send the ball in and give me a chance and I went for it.”
The goal proved the winning of the match. Stephen Fisher tagged on a point a minute later, but the goal was the key.
Throughout the three games it took to overcome St Joseph’s did he ever feel there was a moment when he thought they might not do it?
“Yeah, in the second game I felt near the end that we weren’t going to do it. But in the last match I didn’t feel that. I kept thinking we could do it. Even though afterwards talking to some of the lads they felt it was past us.”
This year Kilcoyne admits that Sean O’Mahony’s are in a much better place compared to previous years. There’s more togetherness, more closeness.
“People are more focused. Everyone is watching the matches. Everyone is talking about the team around the club. There’s been a real buzz. It’s been 15 or 16 years since we were last in a final.
“We’ve had the same team for the last few years and we’ve beaten some big teams last year, like the Pat’s and Dreadnots, but we always seemed to lack something and come up just short. This year is different,” adds the Louth minor star.
Switching focus to Sunday, Kilcoyne knows that there are two schools of thought concerning whether Sean O’Mahony’s could be burnt out after their semi final exertions or they could be hitting top form and will be better for having played three tough competitive matches as opposed to St Fechins, who have had to wait and watch in the meantime.
“Fechin’s could be saying that we’re tired. I know they’ve played a few challenge matches in the past few weeks, but I don’t think anything beats championship intensity,” adds Kilcoyne.
St Fechins and Sean O’Mahony’s might not have had many encounters in recent years, but Kilcoyne knows their manager - Thomas MacNamee - quite well.
“I know Thomas from my time with the Louth minors when he was the manager. I know he’s going to have them on their toes and we play a similar style to them, so there’s not going to be too much in it.”
Having taken home a goal and six points against the Joes, Kilcoyne smiles when he looks ahead to the final: “Hopefully I’ll go one better and get a goal and seven.”
Now time to recover and rest. Only the small matter of a first final since 1998 to prepare for.