Valley Rovers 2-06 Clonakilty 1-06
Amid scenes of high drama, a late fightback earned Valley Rovers a first-ever county U21AFC title at Páirc Uí Rinn yesterday.
When Ian Falvey struck a Clonakilty goal in the 49th minute, they seemed set for a maiden championship of their own as they moved 1-6 to 0-4 ahead.
They would not score again, however, as Innishannon, hitherto wayward in front of goal, managed to eke out an unanswered 2-2.
The key score was mired in controversy. After points from Jack Lyons and Darragh Murphy brought Valleys to within a goal, they were awarded a debatable penalty when Clon full-back Joe White was adjudged to have used his foot to block John Cottrell’s shot.
Referee John Ryan had a good view, but Clonakilty disagreed with the decision and questioned whether it had taken place inside the large rectangle.
When the dust settled, Clon goalkeeper Aidan Collins saved Gary Farrell’s effort but the midfielder was on hand to finish from close range to level.
Then, with Clon reeling, Valleys went for the kill, and there were no questions about the lead goal. When Murphy, who had grown into the game at midfield, launched a ball deep, it evaded the defence and while White again did well, saving from Jack Murphy, Cottrell had an easy task to prod the ball home.
Valiant late defending repelled Clon’s attempts at an equaliser, and manager John Power paid tribute to his side’s character.
"I thought we were gone," he said, "but they never gave up. They missed a lot of chances but the heads never dropped.
"We got a lucky break with the penalty but they’re good footballers, there are only three overage for next year."
It appeared, for much of the game, as if Valleys had largely been authors of their own downfall, registering 16 wides. A solid defensive effort meant Clon found them difficult to break down for long periods and Farrell impressed at midfield while Darragh Murphy limited Cork senior Tom Clancy’s impact, but far too often, good work was undone with wild efforts.
That Rovers led 0-3 to 0-2 at half-time was mainly due to disciplined defending, with massed ranks behind the ball forcing Clon into lateral play as long-range attempts were not taken on.
Upon the restart, though, Clon managed to get John Leahy on the ball to devastating effect, as he kicked three points to put them ahead.
Jack Murphy’s score for Valleys was answered by Jack Cowhig, and then Falvey fisted Leahy’s delivery to the net to seemingly put the game beyond doubt, but Valleys were not done.
In injury time, following a scuffle, Farrell and Clon sub Scott Sheehan were both red-carded. Referee Ryan was the subject of vitriol as he left the field, but any would-be assailants were subdued.
Scorers for Valley Rovers: J Cottrell (1-2), G Farrell (1-0), J Lyons, D Murphy, E Fallon, J Murphy (0-1).
Scorers for Clonakilty: J Leahy (0-3, 1f), I Falvey (1-0), J Cowhig (0-2), B O’Mahony (0-1, f).
VALLEY ROVERS: D O’Driscoll; C O’Connell, J Lynch, D Lynch; J Lyons, T Cummins, D Crowley; D Murphy, G Farrell; D Looney, D Canty, E Fallon; E Delaney, J Cottrell, J Murphy.
Subs: B Murphy for D Lynch (45), T O’Brien for Looney (50).
CLONAKILTY: A Collins; C Sheehy, J White, C O’Donovan; M Scally, S White, G Barry; T Clancy, S Sheehy; G Murray, B O’Mahony, J O’Mahony; J Leahy, J Cowhig, I Falvey.
Subs: JP Maughan for Sheehy (41), S Sheehan for Scally (44).
Referee: J Ryan (Macroom).