00:00 Saturday 10 December 2011  Written by Cois Farraige

Great Clon rally falls just short in U16 County Final

Glanmire 2-9

Clonakilty 0-14

TWO golden goals from the boot of James O'Leary in the first half were the scores that won this cracking U16 Football, Premier 2, County Championship final for Glanmire in wintry Cloughduv on Sunday afternoon last.

Those vital scores arrived at crucial times as Clonakilty threatened to open a lead twice in the first half assisted by the strong breeze. That both goals had an element of good luck about them didn't do much for Clonakilty's mood at the final whistle as they came within a single point of salvaging a game that seemed well out of their reach at half time.

After a slow start with the strong breeze, in biting weather on a very soft surface, Clon slowly gained control to forge in front by two points only to be overtaken by O'Leary's first goal. Then, after rebuilding a three-point lead they got hit for the second goal and at half-time found themselves a point in arrears, having to face into the wind in the second half.

When Glanmire opened up a three-point lead within six minutes of the re-start, Clon's race looked well and truly run but, digging deep, they got to grips with the challenge of the physically stronger Glanmire lads, for whom midfielder Killian Burke tipped the scales at 6ft 6ins.

It was tit-for tat for much of a thrilling second half but when Glanmire led by four points with only ten minutes left on the clock, Clon's brave effort looked in vain. But that was only the beginning of the real excitement as gallant Clon refused to capitulate and when they kicked three points in a row the lead was down to a single point with six minutes remaining.

Eased pressure

A Glanmire free eased the pressure somewhat but Clon just kept coming at them and again cut the lead to a point as the game entered injury time. Full credit to the Glanmire defence in those closing hectic minutes as they soaked up the pressure and some great intercepts and blocks prevented Clon from scoring the equalising point they richly deserved.

The final whistle saw tremendous scenes of delight among the Glanmire contingent as the Clon lads sank to their knees in despair. So near and yet so far.

While the two goals were to prove so decisive, it was Clon's failure to utilise the wind properly that really cost them this final as they over-played the ball when the direct approach was called for in the conditions. The Glanmire forwards looked sharper in the first half, first to the ball and kicking some fine foot passes. It was to the credit of the Clon defence that they confined them to two goals, both of the fluke variety.

In the second half, the Clon midfield got well on top and with the Clon defence well in control for the closing twenty minutes, Glanmire, with the strong breeze, were limited to three points, two from frees.

The hero

For the winners James O'Leary was the hero with his two goals from centre forward but winger Daniel O'Mahony had a great game and his three points after halftime gave Glanmire the cushion they needed to hold on to the final whistle. Conor Kelleher and James O'Sullivan also looked sharp in attack.

At midfield the towering Killian Burke played a lot of ball but met his match in Clon's Cian Crowley and it was a great clash between the two. Aaron O'Mahony showed great speed at midfield for Glanmire but came up against Clon's best player, Seán White, who looks a great prospect. He switched to attack in the second half. Rory Kelleher, Kevin Allen and Gerard O'Callaghan did very well in the Glanmire defence in the first half and again in the closing ten minutes.

For Clonakilty, goalie Niall McCarthy brought off some superb saves and was most unlucky with the two that managed to beat him. Full back Joe White was a tower of strength and got stronger as the game went on while Eoin Deasy had a great game at wing back and Cian O'Donovan closed up the centre against the wind in the second half.

In attack, Jack O'Mahony played a huge amount of ball, kicked six points and shipped a lot of punishment from a hard-hitting defence. JP Maughan wandered to good effect and did some superb fielding while Eoin Ryan, with three points, looked the best of the inside forwards.

The play

A heavy, freezing shower at the start of the game didn't help a pitch that was already soft and full credit to both sides who served up such a sporting thriller in the conditions. Glanmire started better against the wind, with the forwards looking very sharp, and Daniel O'Mahony had the first point before Clon began to settle. With White and O'Mahony prominent, Clon kicked three points from White, Eoin Ryan and O'Mahony to lead by two points after seven minutes.

The first vital goal arrived in the eighth minute and had a real element of luck when James O'Leary's kick for a point was almost blocked by a Clon defender but the diverted shot looped over the goalie's head into the net. Clon responded well and Jack O'Mahony levelled. It was all Clon now and they had built up a three-point lead by the 20th minute with points from Eoin Ryan, Jack Cowhig, free, and O'Mahony, free.

Just when it seemed they might build up a good lead by half time Clon were hit for six again in the 21st minute when goalie, Niall McCarthy, saved magnificently from Conor Kelleher but the rebound fell straight into the path of O'Leary who first-timed it to the net. All square again and looking good for Glanmire and Jack O'Mahony and James O'Sullivan, free, swapped points approaching half time. It got even better for Glanmire when Aaron O'Mahony raced through to fist a point and they were in front, 2-3 to 0-8, at the break, having played against the biting wind.

Clon had a mountain to climb in the second half and they restarted well when JP Maughan levelled within a minute but enter wing forward, Daniel O'Mahony, and when he kicked three points in a row, Glanmire were three to the good by the 36th minute. It certainly looked curtains for Clon then but some vital switches and the re-introduction of Philip Poillot in defence steadied the ship and with tall Paul O'Regan making an impression at midfield, they were giving as good as they got.

Josh Henry raced through on the Glanmire goal but his effort was turned out for a 45 by goalie, Paul Hyland, who did well to keep a clean sheet on the day. Jack O'Mahony, free, and James O'Sullivan, free, swapped points as Glanmire led by 2-7 to 0-10 at the end of the third quarter. When Killian Burke stretched the lead to four with a point from 40m the Glanmire mentors pumped the air with their fists, maybe thinking that the game was now safe. It wasn't as gallantly Clon lifted their challenge in the closing stages.

Excitement ferocious

The excitement was ferocious as Jack O'Mahony, Eoin Ryan and Jack Cowhig all pointed to close the gap to the minimum with six minutes remaining and Clon were now looking the likely winners. Glanmire didn't panic and in the 56th minute James O'Sullivan pointed a free, their last score but a vital one.

Back came Clon with Joe White, Seán White and O'Mahony driving them on and when O'Mahony pointed a free, the lead was again down to a single point. Clon owned the ball in the final minutes but there was no breaking down a heroic Glanmire defence.

A last-ditch turn-over of the ball 35m out from goal finished the action and there was delight and despair in equal measure after the final whistle. A draw would surely have been a fair result on a day that was far from suitable for good football but which produced a real thriller. What a pity these finals can't be played earlier in the season.

Referee, Brian Connery, had no trouble from two sporting teams and there was great excitement as the county trophy was presented to Glanmire captain, Killian Burke, by Jim Forbes, cathaoirleach, Central Region, Rebel Óg.

Scorers Glanmire: James O'Leary 2-0, Daniel O'Mahony 0-4, James O'Sullivan 0-3 frees, Killian Burke and Aaron O'Mahony 0-1 each. Clonakilty: Jack O'Mahony 0-6, 0-3 frees, Eoin Ryan 0-3, Jack Cowhig 0-3, 0-1 free, Seán White and J P Maughan 0-1 each.

Glanmire: Paul Hyland, Tadhg McAuliffe, Rory Kelleher, Kevin Allen, Cian O'Donovan, Gerard O'Callaghan, Greg Grantham, Killian Burke, Aaron O'Mahony, James O'Sullivan, Conor Kelleher, Daniel O'Mahony, James O'Leary, David Dawson, Anthony Walsh. Subs, Conor Kiely and Adam Brennan.

Clonakilty: Niall McCarthy, Darragh McCullagh, Joe White, Philip Poillot, Mark Lynch, Cian O'Donovan, Eoin Deasy, Cian Crowley, Seán White, Jack Cowhig, Jack O'Mahony, Paul O'Regan, Eoin Ryan, JP Maughan, Josh Henry. Subs: John Jennings and Philip Poillot.

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