2016 West Cork Under 21 A Hurling Final Report

West Cork Under 21 A Hurling Final Report 30th August 2016

Clonakilty captured their very first West Cork under 21 A hurling title on Tuesday, August 30th 2016 in difficult conditions in Ardfield as a result of a thrilling victory over Ibane Gaels. The Timoleague/Barryroe combination were themselves bidding for a first title in the grade. Clon qualified for the final as a result of a historic first ever win in the grade over Bandon in the semi-final when they had produced some sparkling hurling on the way to a 4-15 to 0-15 win. That made them slight favourites in many people’s books for the final but, as anticipated, it turned out to be a closely contested game all through, with little or nothing in it throughout a tense and fiercely contested game where no quarter was asked or given. Indeed, it was only the excellent and diligent refereeing of Bantry official, Joe O’Donnell, that kept matters from boiling over on a few occasions. Clon suffered a setback before the game when it became known that Duncan Lehane, three-goal hero of the semi-final, would be an absentee as he was away on holiday. There was a fine crowd in attendance for this eagerly awaited local derby which guaranteed that a new name would be added to the list of winners. A really strong wind blew straight down the field away from the dressing-room goal. Clon won the toss but, surprisingly, opted to play against this wind in the opening half. However, they made by far the brighter start with three quick points from Ross Mannix, Sean Mc Evoy and David Lowney (free). Ibane replied with three similar scores to level matters and it was again level after Lowney pointed only for Ibane to respond with a like score. Clon supporters were happy enough at this stage as the wind was extremely strong and the puck-outs and clearances from the Ibane men were practically dropping in the Clon square. Here, the real heroes of this win emerged. All six Clon backs were outstanding, clearing their lines time and again to great effect. Behind them, Mark White, one of the stars of the semi-final win, was rock solid. Just after the quarter mark, David Lowney, one of the classier players on view, edged Clon ahead with a fine point but Ibane then struck for a goal which was scored from close range, giving White no chance whatever. Clon held their nerves and, vitally, did not concede another goal to a now more dangerous Ibane side. Thankfully for Clon, their opponents had a succession of bad wides after that and their failure to build on the goal was to prove their undoing in the end. Though the Ibane men did add a pointed free it was Clon who finished the stronger with fine points from  Lowney and the magnificent Liam O Donovan, a player who was to emerge as a real hero late on when the need was greatest in the hectic closing stages. A point from Ibane closed the scoring for the first half and Clon were the happier team as the players retired for the break with the score standing at 1-06 to 0-07 to Ibane. Clon would have the wind in the second half. However, as so often happens, the wind eased somewhat and the arrival of heavy drizzle levelled matters up as both teams struggled to produce good hurling in the greasy and difficult conditions. The extremely competitive nature of the game, with tight marking all round, made it impossible for the players to produce quality hurling and tempers became frayed on a few occasions but the game never go out of hand, largely thanks to strict refereeing . Ibane opened the scoring with a point but Lowney responded with a similar score. Ibane added another point from play to put three points between the sides but  Lowney again pointed a free to narrow the gap. With scores now at a premium it was starting to look bad for Clon as they simply could not break down a teak tough Ibane defence who hunted in packs and employed a sweeper to bolster their defence. Hard tackles were the order of the day and every ball was contested as if the outcome of the game depended on it. Scores were almost impossible to get and Ibane were hanging on for dear life to their  two point lead as the game entered the final quarter. Light was fading and the tension among the large crowd was almost unbearable. With twelve minutes left the vital breakthrough came for Clon when they goaled. A long free from Mark White landed in the Ibane goalmouth and a frantic struggle followed for what seemed like an eternity. Defenders tried to clear, forwards tried to knock the ball forward and for a while there was stalemate. Eventually, substitute, Eoin Ryan got the vital touch to just edge the ball over the line. It was the match-winning score. Ibane did draw level with nine minutes remaining following a point from a free but it was to be their last score. They did throw everything at Clon as they came forward in wave after wave of attack but were repelled by a magnificent Clon defence where every man emerged as a hero. Both sets of supporters would gladly have settled for a draw at this stage but Sean Mc Evoy put Clon ahead with five minutes left, scoring a great point from play though under severe pressure. Further Ibane attacks were repelled and they actually had a goal disallowed, rightly, after Mark White bravely stood his ground under a high ball but was knocked over the line by an over-enthusiastic  forward. Amid unbearable tension the game moved into injury time and Tiarnan O Connell, excellent all through, put Clon two points up after 61 minutes with a classy point after he slipped in behind the defence. There was still time for more drama but Clon held out for a famous and historic win. Amid wild scenes of jubilation the cup was presented to worthy team captain Eoin Deasy by Joe Crowley, Chairman of the West Cork Board. Deasy had been an inspired choice as captain and he led by example while all around him his team-mates rallied to the cause.  Liam O’Donovan covered every inch of the pitch and thundered out of defence time and again. Cian O Donovan was the rock that many frantic attacks floundered on while Zack Harrington and David Walsh refused to give an inch to their opponents. Ross Mannix and Sean O Donoghue were soundness personified while the outstanding Lowney played some excellent hurling in the middle of the field. Wing forward, Sean White also did well but suffered from being so closely man-marked. Sean Mc Evoy and Tiarnan O Connell completed an excellent half-forward line. That trio caused a lot of problems for the Ibane men. The Clon full-forward line of Shane Collins, Eoin O Neill and Olan O Donovan tried manfully throughout and caused problems for their opponents but the Ibane full line of defence was particularly strong and generally shaded the issue over the hour. Jack O Mahony was introduced to good effect but it was the introduction of Eoin Ryan that was to prove an inspired substitution as his goal was ultimately to prove the match-winning score. It was no more than he deserved, having made a brave recovery from serious injury. Final score was 1-11 to 1-09