Clon footballer needs an injury-free run, explains KIERAN McCARTHY
IF Ronan McCarthy had scouts at the recent Cork SFC relegation play-off between Clonakilty and O’Donovan Rossa, he might already be rethinking one of his early decisions as Cork senior football manager: to drop Thomas Clancy off the panel.
The irony won’t be lost on McCarthy. Just weeks after it’s revealed that Clancy is one of a number of players not returning to the Cork panel for 2018, he looks the only inter-county quality player on show in Clon’s 2-11 to 1-9 win against Skibb.
Then again, that’s just the reaction that McCarthy wanted and hoped for.
Look at the manager’s rationale after he explained that Clancy, Skibbereen’s Donal Óg Hodnett, Colm O’Driscoll of Tadhg MacCarthaigh, St Jude’s Niall Coakley and Douglas’s Kevin Conlon would not be returning to training with Cork this winter.
‘Some we’d have felt have been on the panel a long time without making a breakthrough, some had maybe given their all to Cork football, while others we felt might benefit from going back to their club,’ McCarthy explained, with, we feel, the last line for Clancy’s benefit.
Of the five players named, Clancy was the one that jumped out.
He’s been one to watch since his underage days, a highly-rated minor and U21 expected to make his presence felt in the senior ranks – but it hasn’t worked out like that at all.
His senior career has been too stop-start, injuries after his U21 days have denied him a chance to get a run of games, settle into life as an inter-county senior and make a jersey his own, to the extent that he has been a periphery figure these past few seasons instead of taking centre stage.
He’s had his calf problems in the past, rolled his ankle and damaged ligaments in May 2015 and earlier this year suffered a stress fracture of his foot that he tried coming back from too soon and ended up aggravating it and missed the championship, the collective result of these continuing setbacks is his Cork career has stagnated.
It’s been one injury after another and this year’s stress fracture saw him sit out Clon’s SFC loss to Muskerry in June. Another season petered out. Another kick in the liathroidí.
It’s been frustrating for him. Instead of kicking on, he has been left kicking his heels on the sidelines.
From four championship appearances in his senior debut season 2013, he started all four Cork championship games the following season – but in the three campaign since Clancy has featured in only one championship match, starting against Donegal in the 2016 All-Ireland SFC quarter-final. To be fair, he looked good that day before he had to come off, injured, in the second half.
He’s inter-county career has hit a wall and that has a knock-on effect at club level with Clonakilty with those injuries robbing him of the years where he should be developing into a driving force.
Still, he’s only 25 and Clon know him well enough to make him club captain; they see his potential to drive their seniors forward. He’s too young to write off and he has too much ability to consign to the inter-county scrap heap.
Clancy’s a strong unit with a physical presence and Cork don’t have too many of his type to call on, but he’s more than that, he’s a good footballer too, and he showed that when kicking four points from midfield against Skibbereen recently. He looked fit and healthy and he dictated the game. He looked inter-county standard.
What he needs is a run of games, to avoid injuries and some long overdue luck, and stepping outside the Cork bubble will allow him do that early next year. Pre-season with Clonakilty and being amongst his own will allow him the chance to rediscover his best form, provided he stays fit and healthy.
The latest signs have been encouraging, man-of-the-match in Clon’s South West JAHC final success and his impressive display when bossing the SFC relegation tie against Skibb.
When he’s firing on all cylinders Clancy is definitely an option for Cork – and now he has something to prove to the doubters who are writing him off.
He handled the news of his demotion from the Cork senior panel well, took it in his stride and has driven on with Clon these past few weeks. He’s their captain, he wants to lead by example, and while he is far from the finished product, there’s more to come from him, both with Clon and Cork, provided he stays fit and healthy.
Next up is a Kelleher Shield semi-final against Carbery Rangers, another chance to show what he can do.
We haven’t heard the last of Thomas Clancy.