REPORT ON COUNTY SFC GAME, CLONAKILTY V ST. NICKS
Clonakilty senior footballers took on old rivals, St. Nicks, in the third round championship game in Bandon on Saturday, June 20th. There was much anxiety and concern among Clon followers in the build-up to the game following dismal performances in the two earlier rounds, both of which had been lost, at the hands of Newcestown and Skibbereen. Indeed, there was an air of real pessimism among many supporters as they knew that another defeat would not alone rule Clon out of this year's championship but would place them in the relegation final where the losers of the Clyda Rovers V. Aghada clash would await. A loss in that game would consign the club to Intermediate ranks for the first time since 1931, something that was causing deep concern to all members and supporters of the Clonakilty club.
With many supporters having been disillusioned following the earlier defeats there was only a modest sized crowd present for the throw-in. Conditions were perfect, with the light breeze that blew into the town goal favouring the St. Nicks side in the first half. To the disappointemnt and surprise of their supporters, Clon set up in a very defensive formation, withdrawing one, and sometimes two, of the selected forwards to operate as extra defenders. Considering the relative weakness of the opposition this seemed totally unecessary and robbed Clon of any real scoring threat. The city side took full advantage of Clon's tactics, easily cutting out most of Clon's early attacks and running at the Clon defence. The extra defenders proved totally helpless in stopping the strong-running Nicks forwards. Clon lost the mid-field battle and struggled alarmingly to win even their own kick-outs. There appeared to be no plan whatever to gain possession from those kick-outs. Despite the limitations of the Nicks side, which can be gauged from the fact that they have struggled to avoid relegation in each of the last three years and had failed to win a first round game for eight, they created numerous scoring chances in the opening stages and Clon were lucky that Pa O Regan was vigilant in keeping out two clear goal-scoring chances. Following one of those saves, after five minutes, Nicks opened the scoring when their goalkeper came up to kick over from the resulting “45”. In many ways it was fitting that the scoring would have been opened by a goalkeeper, such was the poor standard of attacking play by both teams. This score seemed to put some urgency into Clon's play and Denis Murphy burst forward and scored a fine point from play a minute later. Nicks quickly responed with two points, one from play and another from a close-in free. The Clon defence was being opened up easily at this stage, with the extra defenders proving to be of no advantage, as strong running Nicks forwards easily brushed aside two or three defenders at a time. Donal Lyond did score a good point from play and Jack O Mahony added a similar score in the thirteenth minute. Nicks pointed from play and O'Mahony scored from a close-in free to leave the sides level at four points each after nineteen minutes. Play continued for a further six minutes with both sides missing chances but the game was won and lost in a blistering four minutes spell before the break. A Nicks point from play after twenty five minutes was followed by a goal when one of their forwards waltzed past three Clon defenders to shoot home from close range a minute later. With Clon still reeling, they were dealt a huge psychological blow when they missed a close-in free that was, to the consternation of the supporters, taken off the hand and driven wide. Instead of the margin being down to a manageable five points it became a daunting seven point deficit almost immediately when the relieved Nicks side won the kick-out and added a point from a free when one of their forwards was fouled in the resulting attack. Clon supporters were certainly not happy at the break and their mood got worse on the resumption as chance after chance was wasted, with frees and shots from open play missed in rapid succession. It was clear that it was not going to be their night, despite the fact that the team enjoyed much more possession. The forwards did not seem to have the confidence to go for scores and when they did their efforts were invariably poor. Barry O'Mahony, introduced for the second half, finally got the scoreboard working after ten minutes with a point from play, having earlier missed a number of chances. Nicks were unable to add to their half-time tally but Clon were denied by a teak tough Nicks defence and the margin remained at six points until the 53rd minute when Jack O'Mahony was hauled down as he headed for goal. Clon selectors decided to re-introduce Gearoid Barry, surprisingly withdrawn a few minutes earlier, to take the vital kick. It was hardly the ideal preparation and, to the dismay of Clon supporters, his weak effort was saved by the 'keeper. As the game fizzled out, Nicks added a point and Jack O Mahony scored two late pointed frees but it was all too late. Clon were out of the championship and into the relegation final with barely a whimper. The mood among supporters was a mixture of deep disappointment, disillusionment and anger. Like all supporters, they are well used to experiencing championship defeats but there is a real difficulty in coming to grips with the level of performance produced by the team this year. Considering the talent available and the enormous success enoyed at under age level over the previous decade it is had to come to understand what is currently happening at senior level. Clon now have one final chance to avoid relegation, something that seemed unthinkable a few short years ago as the club basked in the glory of winning a county title. All involved with the team, players and management alike, carry a heavy responsibiltiy to do everything necessary to retain senior status. Final score was 1-08 to 0-07.
Team; Pa O'Regan, Mark Sheehy, Finbarr Coughlan, Cian O'Donovan, Denis Murphy, Thomas Clancy, Patrick O'Sullivan, Sean Nagle, Graham Murray, Donal Lyons(c), David O'Regan, Gearoid Barry, Jack O'Mahony, Timmy Anglin and Liam Lyons. Subs used; Colm Sheehy for O'Sullivan (21), Barry O'Mahony for Liam Lyons (ht), Ian Falvey for Barry(39), David Lowney for David O'Regan(49) and Barry for Murray(53).