Biggest test yet for Clancy
HE didn't play minor with Cork, and his experience at U21 level amounted to an appearance as a substitute in the opening round of the Munster championship against Tipperary in 2011.
That was a particularly rewarding year for Fermoy's Tomas Clancy, as, aside from collecting an All-Ireland u-21 medal, he shared in Cork's junior All-Ireland triumph, and tasted Sigerson Cup and county senior football success with UCC.
He didn't start in any of Cork's games in Munster at junior level two years ago, and while he made the team at wing forward for the All-Ireland series, he would hardly have been regarded as a likely senior prospect at the time.
But he was drafted on to the panel this season, and, since making his debut in the league against Dublin, he has produced a string of impressive displays, nailing down a place in the Cork rearguard in the process.
He admits he was a little surprised to get a call-up to the squad, although he was always hopeful after UCC's march to county senior glory in 2011 gave him a bit of exposure.
"If you play with UCC, you have a better chance of getting noticed, and it was massive to win a c ounty senior medal with them two years ago. I'm in no doubt, I wouldn't be where I am now only for that, and it was certainly the most influential thing in terms of putting me in the spotlight," he admitted.
"When I was brought on to the senior panel, I was very determined to make the most of every chance I got, because to play at the top level with Cork was something I had always dreamed about. In the game against Dublin, I realised after the first 15 minutes just how big a step-up it was, but then I settled down, got my head straight, and it worked out well enough after that," said Clancy, before he went on to praise his senior colleagues.
"I think I've improved over the past few months, every game has been a learning curve, and it was a big help to have such experienced players as Graham (Canty), Paudie (Kissane) and Noelie (O'Leary) around me.
"Obviously, I found it a bit intimidating when I came into the set-up initially, but the established players welcomed me with open arms, which made it easier to focus on getting myself right," said the Fermoy man, while he looked at his early involvement with Cork as a constant opportunity to impress.
"The way I viewed it was that each training session was like a trial, and I gave it everything in the hope that I would get a chance to show what I could do in the league. Thankfully, it paid off, and since getting a foot in the door, I haven't looked back," said Clancy.
Although his previous experience at inter-county level was as a forward, Clancy revealed he always played at the back with his club, and he says he feels much more at home there.
"I'd be a natural defender, and even as a forward, I kinda felt I was in the first line of defence, and that a big part of my job was to stop the opposition's backs coming out with the ball. But I'd be happy to play anywhere in a Cork jersey, as I've said it's been a passion for me since I was a young fella to play senior with the county, and I'm prepared to work my socks off now to try and hold on to my place," said the defender.
Clancy is fully aware that Sunday's game against Kerry is going to be his stiffest challenge to date, and that a Munster final in Killarney is the acid test for any newcomer.
"It's a huge occasion, and I always enjoyed going down there as a fan, but I'll be inside the white lines on Sunday, so it's obviously going to be a different story altogether," said Clancy.
The young defender is honoured to be representing his club in a Munster senior final for Cork.
"I believe I'm ready for it, and I'm immensely proud to be representing my club to be honest, because I think it's almost sixty years since Fermoy last had a player lining out with Cork in a Munster senior football final.
"There is a great buzz in the town in the lead-up to the game, my mobile hasn't stopped ringing with people wishing me the best of luck, and hopefully it will go well for me, and, more importantly of course for the team, on the day," said Clancy.