Clonakilty senior footballers took on Castlehaven in Roscarbery on Saturday evening, May 7th in the first round of the 2016 county championship. The game was played on a damp, slippery pitch and in poor visibility due to fog. Despite the poor weather conditions and the fact that the back-door option provided both sides with the safety of a second chance, there was a real championship edge to the game and a very large crowd gathered. This helped to generate a great atmosphere. Clon were dealt a blow before throw-in when Finbarr Coughlan failed a fitness test and the team was reshuffled, with Josh Henry coming in at wing-forward and Thomas Clancy, the team captain, moving into the full-back line. Clon supporters faced into the game in some trepidation following the dismal performances of the team in the previous year's campaign. However, recent good form in the league gave some grounds for optimism. Clon played into the dressing-room goal in the first half and openend brightly, playing a direct brand of football. The ball was played quickly into the forward line and the open nature of the game was like a breath of fresh air to supporters. A number of scoring chances were missed by both teams in the opening passages of play and it was Denis Murphy who opened the scoring after five minutes with a lovely point from play after a fine solo run through the Castlehaven defence. Castelehaven responded quickly with two points, free and play to edge ahead after seven minutes. Clon were winning a lot of ball now around the middle and their lively forwards were causing trouble for an over-worked Castelehaven defence. Ross Mannix pointed a free after eight minutes and this was quickly followed by another pointed free, again by Mannix, from well out on the left wing after ten minutes. Clon now led by three points to two and did not surrender the lead until well into the final quarter of the game. A pointed fee after twelve minutes levelled matters but Clon were well on top and Sean Mc Evoy, who was very lively and threatening throughout, knocked over a fine point after nineteen minutes. This was followed by a wonderful point from Thomas Clancy after a flowing movement that involved Zack Harrington, Denis Murphy and Ian Falvey. In the twenty first minute Castelahven pointed from play but Clon were really doing well now and David Lowney pointed from play. This was followed by a similar score for Castlehaven but two more fine points from play by Lowney and Denis Murphy left Clon leading by eight points to five at the short whistle. Considering the amount of play they had enjoyed, Clon could easily have been further ahead and the waste of so many scoring opportunities was ultimately to prove costly.
Thankfully, for players and supporters alike, the fog lifted for the second half and visibility improved. Castlehaven pointed from play in the opening minute and David Lowney replied with a similar score for Clon after four minutes. Clon were now starting to struggle around the middle and their opponents poured forward in wave after wave of attack. However, some magnificent defending by Clon kept their opponents at bay. Thomas Clancy marshalled his defence magnificently. James O Brien was excellent in goal and played a lot of ball as he cleared to good effect. In an over-worked Clon defence, Zack Harrington, Colm Sheehy, Cian O'Donovan, Graham Murray ans especially Liam O'Donovan were excellent, with Liam O'Donovan really catching the eye with his energetic solo runs out of defence. However, despite excellent defending,three points from play between the fifth and ninth minutes, interrupted by a pointed fe from Mannix, saw the Castlehaven side edge closer to Clon and it was becoming clear that the younger and lighter Clon forwards were finding it harder to make progress against a solid and hard-tackling Castlehaven defence. Denis Murphy and Sean White, both outstanding in the opening half, strugled now against bigger and sronger opponents. Both fought manfully to the end. Clon survived a number of dangerous situations before Mc Evoy and Lowney, both outstanding throughout, gave them breathing space with two very good points after eleven and fourteen minutes respectively. A shock result was now very much on the cards. However, with Clon fading after expending enormous energy in fending off the strong Castlehaen challenge, it was the men in blue who dominated the game from there on. Four points in six minutes saw them go into a one point lead. There was great excitment and tension at this stage and the large crowd was in full voice. Ian Falvey pointed a free after he had been fouled and a draw looked on the cards. However, Castlehaven grabbed the winning point, from play, with two minutes left. They then won possession from the kick-out and held it for the remaining time, much to the frustration of the Clon players. The game had moved into injury time before Clon did suceed in winning back the ball. To the disappointment of Clon supporters and players the final whistle was blown without the ball going dead and with Clon in possession. Though defeated, Clon are not out of the championship. They now have a chance to avenge last year's humiliating defeat at the hands of St. Nicks. A win in that game will put them back in contention. If they can build on the excellent performance against Castlehaven they will be a threat to anyone. The improvement from last year has been enormous. A young team has every reason to feel positive about their prospects following this display. Every player gave his all for the cause and this was very much appreciated by Clon supporters, who, though disappointed at the narrow loss, were in positive mood afterwards. They now feel that they have a team that has potential and is going somewhere. Well done to all involved, players and mentora alike.
Team; James O'Brien, Thomas Clancy (0-1), Zack Harrington, Colm Sheehy, Graham Murray, Liam O'Donovan, Cian O'Donovan, Sean White, Denis Murphy (0-2), David Lowney (0-3), Gearoid Barry, Josh Henry, Sean Mc Evoy (0-2), Ian Falvey (0-1f), Ross Mannix(0-4, 0-3f). Sean Nagle and Sean O'Donoghue were introduced after 54 minutes for Colm Sheeh and Josh Henry respectively. Pa O'Sullivan came on briefly for Liam O'Donovan as a blood sub.