‘Is this for real?’: Kilcoo’s Jerome Johnston reflects on his goal that won the All-Ireland

LIKE BALLYGUNNER’S HARRY Ruddle earlier in the day, Jerome Johnston struck with an injury-time Croke Park goal for Kilcoo that sealed his club’s maiden All-Ireland senior crown. 

It’s a moment he’ll never forget, a career-defining score. Kilmacud Crokes were leading by two at the end of extra-time and seconds from victory, when Johnston struck.

He’d been struggling with cramp at that stage but managed to summon enough energy to get himself into the area to strike for a goal that broke Kilmacud hearts.

“I got a bit of grief after the Ulster final for complacency from myself and hitting it at the keeper,” he says.

“Just lucky to be in the right place at the right time.

“I sorted of waited outside the six yard box just in the hope that if it didn’t go in you’ve always a chance if you’re lurking about. It came into my head to pull on it.

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“I just thought take your time here, it can go anywhere if you pull on it. I composed myself and just popped it into the top of the net and here we are.”

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It was a move started and finished by Johnston brothers. 

Despite clearly struggling with cramp, Kilmacud were holding onto possession deep in their own half when Jerome pressurised goalkeeper Conor Ferris. 

His long clearance was picked up by Aaron Branagan and he fed Shealin Johnston, who in turn picked out his brother Ryan on the edge of the area. His shot on goal was magnificently denied by Cian O’Connor, but Jerome was on hand to sweep home the rebound. 

“We had put a bit of pressure on the keeper. I knew we were closing in. I said don’t make it easy for him because he was happy enough to come with the ball. He was tired as we all were.

“Luckily enough he went for the safe option with the hoof and it fell into (Aidan Branagan’s) hands and he picked out Shealin. Shealin turned down the line and this stage my legs were completely gone.

“As soon as he got it I shouted to Ryan, ‘Get to the box’. Because I was thinking if he launches it he has more height than me and I could get off his scraps. Next thing Shealin, I don’t know how, picked him out with his right foot.

“Right place. right time. Couldn’t believe it to be honest. When I seen the ball coming across to me I was like, ‘Is this for real?’”

Kilcoo’s Shealin Johnston, Jerome Johnston and Ryan Johnston together with Lár Johnston and the Andy Merrigan Cup.

Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

Johnston saw most of his family after the final whistle and brought his six-week old son Lár onto the field during his celebrations.

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He had to wait a bit longer to link up with his father Jerome Snr, who has been a driving force for the club in a coaching capacity for over three decades.  

“Daddy has got a really, really bad heart,” he explains. “I think he couldn’t come down (to the pitch) because his blood pressure was through the roof. I seen the rest (of the family) there but he’s okay. I got a text through from him.

“It’s brilliant for him and a lot of the men in the club that put a lot of work in for years. They were Division 3 in the late 90s, they got up to 2. If you had said 25 years after you’re going to be the best team in Ireland.

“In football terms to turn a club around in that time, it’s not that long. Today hasn’t sunk in yet but when we look back on it it’s a very special day.”

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