Cleary: Penalty was a ‘sucker-punch’ after drawing level

HAVING been the better side for much of the second-half of yesterday’s SFC final, a five-point defeat was cruel on Castlehaven, the late penalty from Daithí Casey, followed by two Gavan O’Grady points, stemming their momentum.

After wiping out a half-time deficit of four points, the Haven had looked likelier victors going into the closing stages, with selector John Cleary admitting the goal was crucial.

“When we got level, it looked we might push on,” he said.

“We hadn’t played very well, particularly in the first-half, but in fairness we fought very hard in the second half and we got back level, but the penalty was a sucker punch, really.”

As to what caused the poor first-half performance from the west Cork side, Cleary highlighted a few different factors.

“Well, I suppose fellas were a bit nervous,” he said.

“We had a lot of young fellas out there, but fair play to UCC, they have a good team and they have a lot of big strong guys, we couldn’t get to grips with the kickouts, on both sides.

“We struggled for possession, we took a few wrong options at times then as well, we were struggling in the first-half.”

The 0-8 to 0-4 deficit was a far cry from the semi-final against Carbery Rangers, when Castlehaven had 1-5 registered before their opponents scored.

“Yeah, but we were up against a completely different team here today,” Cleary said.

“They didn’t let us play and they didn’t let us build.

“We were unable to win the primary possession around the middle of the field and if you haven’t possession you can’t win any game.”

In the dressing room at the break, attempts were made to remedy the problems, and for long spells of the second half it appeared that they would complete the turnaround.

“The main thing was that fellas had to up their game and in fairness they did in the second-half.

“We didn’t play exceptionally well but we got three or four very good scores to level it and I felt then that we needed maybe to get a point ahead.

“Whoever got the next score would have a big advantage and when it was a goal then, that was the turning point in the game.”

With a relatively young side, the future is still bright for the Haven. The hope now is that they will be better for the experience, though at the same time Cleary conceded that nothing could be taken for granted.

“Well we’ll regroup now. The Cork county championship is a very competitive championship.

“We’d be hoping that fellas are young enough that they’ll learn from this, but it’s looking like a long way back from today now really.”

The key moment

NO doubts about this one. Castlehaven had the scent of victory when they drew level but Daithí Casey’s cool penalty conversion in the 57th minute turned the match back in UCC’s favour.

Pub talk

ANOTHER unlikely county senior championship win in Cork. Similar to Carrigtwohill’s hurling triumph a fortnight ago, UCC were outsiders at the start of 2011 yet belied that tag to take honours.

Haven’t seen that before

A LARGE number of the UCC players had yellow insulation tape around the sleeves of their jerseys. But there was no emotional gesture behind the move, instead the players did not feel the jerseys were tight enough before the game.

The main man

CAPTAIN Seán Kiely offered superb leadership from his half-back role as he was the launchpad for several UCC attacks, grabbed two vital points and played a key role in winning the critical penalty.

The man in black

JAMES DORGAN got the key calls right, most notably in awarding the 57th minute penalty.

What’s next?

UCC face Limerick champions Monaleen in the first round of the Munster Club SFC on November 6.

Fintan O’Toole

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