A FIRST-EVER West Cork League Beamish Cup final appearance is just reward for a Clonakilty Town squad determined to lift silverware at Turner’s Cross.
The Battle of the Towns sees Clonakilty and Dunmanway going head to head for the most prestigious trophy in West Cork League football this Sunday.
Yet, it will also be a poignant match-day for the amalgamated Clonakilty AFC and Town clubs. Earlier in the day, the latter’s Darrara ground will host Togher Celtic and Drinagh Rangers’ Gareth O’Driscoll Cup final, a competition named after Clon Town’s late chairman, whose absence will be sorely missed.
Clon’s path to the 2020 decider has been far from straightforward but manager John ‘Mousey’ Leahy is glad his players have been rewarded with a shot at the Beamish Cup trophy.
‘Absolutely, the lads deserve to play in a Beamish Cup final,’ Leahy told The Southern Star.
‘At the start of the season, I wanted a top four finish and a good cup run. Now, we are in two finals (Parkway-Maybury Cup being the other) and finished third in the league.
‘Playing in Turner’s Cross will be special but the disappointment is that there won’t be any supporters allowed in to watch. I’m still expecting a great day out. We will go up and enjoy the day but make no mistake, we are big underdogs. Having said that, we are not cannon fodder either.’
Clonakilty began their Beamish Cup odyssey at home to Baltimore in a preliminary round tie last January. The Championship side gave a fine account of themselves with Jason Minihane (2) and Jack McCarron finding the net in a 3-3 draw after extra-time. An Iain O’Driscoll hat-trick ensured the hosts forced a penalty shootout which Clonakilty won 6-5 to progress.
Town were pushed to the absolute limit by Ballydehob in round two before edging a second consecutive cup tie after extra-time. O’Driscoll continued his excellent run with a brace of goals with Jonathan Leahy (2) and Noel Jordan completing the winners’ total in a thrilling 5-4 win. Mizen AFC were dispatched 2-1 in the quarter-finals thanks to Iain O’Driscoll (six goals in three ties) and Tiarnán O’Connell strikes.
Covid-19’s intervention meant a five-month delay before Clon lined out in a Beamish Cup semi-final against local rivals Lyre Rovers at Canon Crowley Park. The experience of twice having to negotiate extra-time stood to Leahy’s side. Town emerged 2-1 victors following 120 minutes of action. Chris Collins and Paul Daly found the net to set up an intriguing matchup with Dunmanway Town.
‘We have been on the edge a couple of times in this year’s run and I remember Eoin Ryan saving a penalty in extra-time against Baltimore,’ Leahy explained.
‘Since lockdown, we have suffered our fair share of injuries but thankfully, having a big squad has stood to us. Lyre beat us 2-1 in the semi-final a couple of years ago. This year, Noel Jordan came on and crossed for Paul Daly to win it for us. That is just the way it goes in the Beamish Cup sometimes.
‘We have played Dunmanway Town twice this year but I wouldn’t count the first game much as it was the first day out. We beat them in Darrara a couple of weeks ago but Dunmanway were short five or six that day.
‘Look, Dunmanway are very strong and Cathal Daly is the best player I have seen playing the Premier Division this year. We are up against it but will give it our best shot. What I know for certain is that without the AFC and Town clubs joining, we would not be in a Beamish Cup final. You need a big squad to compete for trophies and to deal with all the injuries and GAA commitments.’