THINGS were beginning to shape up nicely for Clyda Rovers early in the second half of this County PIFC quarter-final clash with St Michael's at Pairc Uí Rinn last Friday evening.
Having turned over 0-8 to 0-7 in arrears, the Mourneabbey men posted the first two scores on the resumption, and, with Niall O'Mullane operating to good effect as a third midfielder, it seemed as if they were ready to stamp their authority on the proceedings. It proved to be a case of flattering to deceive on Clyda's part, however, as they failed to add to their tally in the last 25 minutes of a contest that was clearly beyond their reach after St Michael's forged five points ahead, courtesy of a goal from Eoghan Buckley in the 50th minute.
Not that Clyda threw in the towel following that body-blow, but their spirited efforts weren't nearly enough to compensate for their ragged and disjointed play in the closing stages. The result was that the city side ran out comfortable winners, and Clyda could have no complaints about a defeat that shattered their hopes of qualifying for a fourth consecutive county final.
There was little to indicate Clyda would finish the match seven points adrift during a keenly-contested first half containing some excellent passages of freeflowing football.
It was notable at the same time that Clyda's laboured build-ups meant they had to work harder for their scores, and that St Michael's, playing it more direct, looked a little sharper up front where Mark Ryan was a constant threat at full forward. After midfielders Paudie Kissane and Fionn O'Shea shared the opening two scores for Clyda, Ryan won a couple of frees which enabled Eric Hegarty to bring St Michael's back on terms inside ten minutes.
Clyda went two points up again midway through the first half, with Conor O'Sullivan making it 0-4 to 0-2 after wing-back Oliver O'Hanlon â?“ set up by John O'Hanlon who knocked a Paudie Kissane cross into his path â?“ had initially been denied a goal when his shot was parried by St Michael's full-back Richard Dineen. Ryan quickly reduced the deficit to the minimum, and he had the satisfaction of nudging St Michael's in front, 0-7 to 06, for the first time as the opening period drew to a close.
In the interim, Paudie Kissane, and James Murphy, from a '45, had chipped in with points for Clyda before Niall O'Mullane - with the score at 0-6 to 0-5 in favour of the North-Cork side â?“ squandered another chance when fumbling possession in front of the posts. That effectively amounted to a two-point turnaround after Richard Dineen launched a counter-attack which yielded an equaliser from Eric Hegarty in the 26th minute.
Along with Mark Ryan, Hegarty also sparkled in attack before the break for St Michael's, who regained the lead in stoppage time when centre-forward Michael Mulconry negated a Conor Flanagan point for Clyda. Paude Kissane, ably supported by Fionn O'Shea, exerted a significant influence at midfield for Clyda in the first half when Paudie O'Mullane and Niall O'Mullane were both very industrious up front.
The latter, used as an orthodox full forward in the first half, was redeployed in a more familiar role as a third midfielder on the restart, and he pulled much of the strings as Clyda made the early running. Their persistent pressure was rewarded with points from Conor Flanagan and James Murphy before an attempt by Conor O'Sullivan to stretch the gap went wide via the upright.
Paudie O'Mullane was also denied a point by the woodwork at the threequarter stage, and Clyda had suffered another setback shortly before that when, after Conor O'Sullivan was dispossessed and a promising raid was aborted, Eoghan Buckley immediately found the target at the other end for St Michael's. All of which meant that Clyda were a tad unlucky to be 0-10 to 09 in arrears midway through the second half.
But there could be no disputing that St Michael's produced the more purposeful football over the hour, and they certainly carried greater potential in attack where Eoghan Buckley ultimately proved a trump card.
Clyda had moved Ray Carey on to Eric Hegarty for the second half, and he managed to reduce Hegarty's threat to some extent, while full back Chris Kenny fared out a bit better as well against Mark Ryan, but Buckley's input ensured that the St Michael's continued to function with considerable menace up front, and his well-taken goal put them firmly on the road to victory.
Will Kennedy, a county senior medal-winner with UCC last year, was another key figure for the winners at midfield, particularly in the second half when Richard Dineen and Aongus O'Driscoll backboned a disciplined and tightly-knit rearguard.
Following Buckley's strike, Clyda lost their composure, with erratic shooting hindering their hopes of staging a recovery before St Michael's embellished a fully merited win with a brace of late points from substitute Paul Cronin.
ST MICHAEL'S: E Buckley 1-2, E Hegarty 0-5, 0-2 frees, M Ryan and P Cronin 0-2 each, D Cremin and M Mulconry 0-1 each CLYDA ROVERS: J Murphy 0-3, 02 frees, P Kissane and C Flanagan 0-2 each, F O'Shea and C O'Sullivan 0-1 each ST MICHAEL'S: B Kavanagh, B O'Sullivan, R Dineen, D Crowley, A Murphy, A O'Driscoll, C Kilcoyne, S O'Sullivan, W Kennedy, E Buckley, M Mulconry, E Hegarty, D Cremin, M Ryan, M Drummond Subs: P Cronin for Cremin, E O'Mara for Kilcoyne, S McCarthy for Drummond, S O'Keeffe for S O'Sullivan, P Parfrey for Ryan CLYDA ROVERS: C Conway, K Fitzgerald, C Kenny, J Fitzgerald, G Carey, R Carey, O O'Hanlon, P Kissane, F O'Shea, C Flanagan, P O'Mullane, C O'Sullivan, N O'Mullane, J O'Hanlon, J Murphy. Subs: M O'Brien for K Fitzgerald (injured), C Lane for J O'Hanlon, C Buckley for J Fitzgerald, J O'Sullivan for N O'Mullane, D Roche for Lane REFEREE: D Shorten (St Mary's)