'I was confident, since the start of the year, that this team could reach a quarter-final'

October 31st, 2021 9:50 AM

By Ger McCarthy

Carbery Rangers and Clonakilty will clash in the 2023 Premier SFC group stage.

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THOMAS Clancy hopes Clonakilty can rekindle the spirit of 1996 when the West Cork club faces Duhallow in this weekend’s Bon Secours Cork Premier SFC quarter-final.

This year is the 25-year anniversary of Clonakilty’s famous 1996 Cork senior football championship final victory over UCC at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. The Brewery Town is heading back to the revamped stadium on Sunday, hoping to overcome Duhallow (4pm throw-in) for a place in the Premier SFC semi-finals.

They may have lost their Knocknagree contingent but a 0-10 to 0-8 win over UCC plus their recent championship history is why Clonakilty’s Thomas Clancy believes Duhallow’s pedigree cannot be questioned.

‘There is no doubt about it but Duhallow have always been up there as one of the top teams in the county over the past couple of years,’ Clancy says.

‘Duhallow have contested two county finals in the last four or five years alone so we know it’s going to be a very tough battle. Any team that beats UCC are going to be strong opponents. All Clonakilty can do is focus on ourselves. We are looking forward to going up to Páirc Uí Chaoimh. It’s a great place to play a quarter-final.’

It is a fact that Clon’s opponents are no strangers to the business end of the county’s premier football grade. Nemo Rangers squeezed past Duhallow 0-14 to 2-7 in last year’s semi-finals. Nemo also edged the division 2-8 to 0-10 in the 2019 county final prior to St Finbarr’s breaking Duhallow hearts 3-14 to 2-14 in the 2018 decider.

Clon and Duhallow’s previous meeting was in the 2019 Cork SFC quarter-finals where the latter emerged 2-15 to 0-12 winners. Since then, the West Cork club has bounced back from failing to emerge from last year’s group stage to reach the 2021 county quarter-finals.

‘This is where Clonakilty wants to be,’ Clancy says.

‘If you told me that Clonakilty wouldn’t get out of our group at the start of the year, I wouldn’t have been a bit happy. I was confident, since the start of the year, that this team could reach a quarter-final. Now, we need to focus on the next stage of the championship, overcoming Duhallow even though it is not going to be an easy task.

‘We will focus on our own performance which I feel wasn’t at the races against the Barr’s. Going up to Páirc Uí Chaoimh will get the players going once again. We can’t wait to get up there and have a crack off Duhallow.’

Drawn in Group C of this year’s county championship, Clonakilty began with a 3-10 to 0-11 defeat of Ilen Rovers thanks to Dara Ó Sé (2) and Ross Mannix goals. Sean White’s green flag proved crucial in the 1-10 to 0-12 defeat of Ballincollig. Already qualified for the knockout stages, Clonakilty fell to St. Finbarr’s 1-12 to 1-5 in their final group fixture.

‘Everyone knew we were going to be in a tough group and it was always going to be tight getting out of it,’ Clonakilty defender Clancy says.

‘Last year’s county championship did not go the way we wanted. We knew that we had a good set-up this year though. There is a talented panel of players there since we first got together at the start of the year.

‘Our intention was to qualify from the group. We faced Ilen the first day, felt confident going into that game and got a good result. Ballincollig, the next day, that was always going to be very tight so everyone was delighted to come out of that with a one-point win. That Ballincollig game went down to the wire but was a great game to show the people of Clonakilty what we were capable of. It was a great boost.

‘Reflecting on the St Finbarr’s game, we would have been happy enough with the first-half performance but things got away from us in the second half. As I said, in general, we are very happy with where we are right now.’

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