This was supposed to be the real thing, the final that would showcase the U21 football championship in West Cork and make up for the past two finals that were so one-sided.
There would be no 11-point gap between the Clon and the Haven this time, or so everybody believed.
Even though the wind was a bit of a lottery, the pitch was perfect and the large crowd, no doubt swollen by the controversy over dugouts, was all set to watch a cracker.
What transpired, however, was another damp squib, except for the Clon supporters who watched their side cruise to their third title in a row.
What went wrong? The dugout controversy was defused by Clon simply taking up residence in the lower dugout, with no objection from anybody. Common sense prevailed but we await with interest to see if the Clon club will be fined for disregarding a board directive.
The game itself was a huge let-down for the neutrals as they watched Clon, for the third year in a row, demolish the Haven challenge.
Clon did enter this game as strong favourites and the Haven weren’t helped by the training injury to Dave McCarthy during the week. When midfielder Darragh Cahalane had to go off injured they were really up against it.
Clon started the game at a hundred miles an hour, bearing little resemblance to the team that was so lucky to beat Newcestown in the semi-final. County player Sean White, named as a sub on the Cork senior team for Sunday last, took total control of the middle of the pitch from the word go and the Haven had no answer to him.
His partner, Cian Crowley, who was man-of-the-match in last year’s final but off form so far this season, was back to his best and this pairing was the springboard for Clon’s decisive victory.
The Haven will now realise that if they want to beat this Clon side next season, they will have to match them at midfield as that has been the seed of their problems for the last three finals.
The bad news for the Haven is that the Clon pair are underage again next season but Newcestown proved in the semi-final, especially Sean O’Donovan, that Clon can be beaten there. Right now it’s not happening for the Haven.
Strange to relate, Clon also have the upper hand in physique right now, which is unusual for Clon teams. Having six players involved with county teams has really paid off as regards conditioning and strength and on Sunday last Clon won the physical battle hands down, especially as regards turning over possession.
The other area in which Clon had a clear advantage was in attack. The Haven’s sole tactic seemed to be to get the ball in fast to full forward Michael Hurley and Clon took a chance by not double-marking him, as he did look highly dangerous in possession.
Clon limited him to a single point because they cut off the supply of ball and so dominant was their midfield that Hurley was starved of the ball for long periods. Conor Cahalane did look good but when the Haven moved him to midfield after the departure of Darragh Cahalane, that was another attacking threat gone. In fairness Cathal Maguire did have his moments too.
At the other end of the pitch, the Clon attackers, so well supported by the surging runs of Sean White from midfield, were a class act, five of them getting in on the scoring. They are all strong and comfortable on the ball, all skilful players and all capable of taking their scores.
Jack O’Mahony, David Lowney and Sean McEvoy have all worn the Cork shirt this season at minor and U21, while Ian Falvey and the vastly-improved Jack Cowhig contributed seven points between them. Add in super-sub Ross Mannix, a star with the Clonakilty Community College, and the Haven could never match this fire-power.
The Clon defence was well anchored by two more county players, Tiarnán O’Connell and Cian O’Donovan, and immediately one can see the enormity of the task facing the Haven side.
This is a golden era for Clon U21s, their first-ever three-in- a-row.
The Haven may have lost four finals in a row but we all know they will produce some top-class senior footballers from those four teams.
The task for Clon now is to develop these talented young players into a county-winning senior team. Success at senior level is not guaranteed by success at U21, a lot of factors will come into play in the years ahead.
The immediate task now for Clon is to win the county title, a title they left behind them two years ago and could have won last season. The talent is there, the target looms large and they are the most experienced team probably left in the competition. No excuses this time.
Slán go Fóill