At times, the top table must have seemed like a mirage. Three years in succession, 2009-11 inclusive, they made the journey back to Mourneabbey as beaten finalists, and last year’s quarter-final defeat to St Michael’s could have been seen as the blow that finished them as a force in the grade.
The installation of Ned English as coach provided a perfect fit though, allowing their running game to be perfected. The aesthetics may not always be pleasing to the neutral observer, but the style’s effectiveness, based on retention of possession until a scoring chance presents itself, cannot be denied.
In five matches during the championship, Clyda didn’t concede a single goal and once a slow start had been overridden here, they looked ready to right the previous wrongs which saw final defeats to Valley Rovers, Newcestown and Newmarket.
Midfielders Kenneth Fitzgerald and Conor Flanagan provided the impetus, scoring six points between them, and while not all of their forward division were at their most comfortable in taking on chances, James Murphy and Pádhraic O’Mullane showed up well here.
Though they scored the first two points of the game, Macroom then stalled, and that their starting six forwards combined for just three points between them is indicative of the travails they endured against a resolute Clyda back line, where Ray Carey, Chris Kenny and Fionn O’Shea all stood up well.
And yet, in those early stages, Clyda didn’t look to be packing much of a punch. Their build-up play was laboured, sequences of hand-passing too often leading to nothing, with Macroom’s more vertical style leading to scores from David Goold and Ivan Casey.
The Mid-Cork side’s shooting was not putting Clyda’s poor efforts in the shade, however, and once a pair of Flanagan points, one a free, levelled matters, Clyda drove on as Cian O’Sullivan and James Murphy gave them a cushion.
They were still far from perfect in an attacking sense — as evidenced by O’Shea’s burst forward only to pass to Conor O’Sullivan rather than shooting, with O’Sullivan pulling his effort wide — but by the half-time whistle they were comfortable at 0-7 to 0-4, Pádhraic O’Mullane and Fitzgerald on target.
Fintan Goold, who had moved from centre-back to midfield during the first half, cut the deficit immediately upon the resumption, but that was as close his side would get.
Clyda had found their groove by now and Fitzgerald added another couple of points while Paudie Kissane, heretofore quiet by his standards, also began to bring his influence to bear.
Macroom were still in it, but as time passed the feeling grew that they needed a goal and the closest they came was when Tony Dineen landed a ball into the Clyda goalmouth but goalkeeper Cian Conway dealt with matters.
Fintan Goold did manage a hard-earned point after that, but when Flanagan and Pádhraic O’Mullane responded to leave Clyda 0-12 to 0-7 ahead with 10 minutes left, they were within touching distance of glory. There was great composure to their play in the closing stages, holding onto the ball as Macroom wilted, and even when Dineen did manage to intercept a loose pass, a cramping Seán Kiely couldn’t reach his pass.
Murphy’s third wrapped it up for Clyda in the 60th minute, and Fintan Goold’s late effort from a close-range free flew over. Five in it at the end, fourth time lucky for Clyda.
Scorers for Clyda Rovers: C Flanagan (1f), J Murphy (2f), K Fitzgerald 0-3 each, P O’Mullane 0-2, P Kissane, Cian O’Sullivan 0-1 each.
Scorers for Macroom: F Goold 0-3 (1f), C Murphy, S Kiely, P Lucey (f), D Goold, Casey 0-1 each.
CLYDA ROVERS: C Conway; N O’Mullane, R Carey, C Kenny; C Buckley, F O’Shea, O O’Hanlon; K Fitzgerald, C Flanagan; G Carey, P Kissane, Conor O’Sullivan; Cian O’Sullivan, P O’Mullane, J Murphy.
Subs: C Lane for P O’Mullane, J O’Hanlan for Flanagan (both 57), M O’Brien for Buckley (59).
MACROOM: J O’Connell; P Lynch, R Buckley, M O’Donnell; S Kiely, F Goold, C Murphy; P Corrigan, E O’Mahony; T Dineen, I Casey, B Lynch; P Lucey, D Goold, D Horgan.
Subs: A Hegarty for B Lynch (h-t), B O’Donnell for M O’Donnell (44), S Casey for Horgan (45), M Cahill for Kiely (55, injured), Kiely for Casey (59).
Referee: James Bermingham (Bride Rovers).