Losing an All-Ireland semi-final is usually enough of a penance in itself but to follow that up with defeat in a national decider just two days later is a whole other level of purgatory. So, spare a thought today for the students at Midleton CBS.
And four in particular.
Arthur Nganou, Joe Stack, Jack Fitzgerald, and Jamie O’Hanlon made up the quartet that featured in both teams, losing out to Athenry at the penultimate stage of the Dr Croke Cup on Monday and to Carndonagh yesterday when swapping hurleys for shin pads.
The nature of both defeats will only add to the disappointment with Athenry catching them late on in Kilmallock and their Donegal opponents accounting for their ambitions this time with an 82nd-minute header from midfielder Jack Doherty.
Regrets? They’ll have more than a few.
Midleton probably pitched up in Dublin as underdogs against a school that was chasing a third national senior cup title in four years, but they enjoyed periods of dominance here and engineered a handful of decent goalscoring opportunities in doing it.
Which isn’t to say that Carndonagh stole it.
Stack was likely the best player on the pitch, his control of the middle-third adding to an attacking threat that could have netted him three goals, but Nganou was equally prominent given the frequency with which the goalkeeper kept Carndonagh at bay at the other end.
The opening quarter was a cagey affair with two sets of players finding their feet on a pitch that asked everything of their control and it was Carndonagh who managed most of the attacking probes in that spell.
Midleton, forced to defend for long periods, found it difficult to bring enough bodies to the attacking third and sent long balls straight down the throat of the opposition keeper rather than into the channels on too many occasions.
The game did eventually open up — and at both ends.
Stack made a clean connection with one volley that sailed over the bar and teammate Matthew O’Reilly sent one of the game’s best chances wide of the near post after some loose defending left him in possession with time to spare inside the box.
Carndonagh centre-forward Luke Rudden had the game’s first pop on goal nine minutes in and another later in the period, but midfielder and captain Kieran Farren aped O’Reilly when scuffing a gilt-edged shot at Nganou when opportunity knocked.
Stack almost broke the deadlock as the half wound down with a brilliant 30-yard strike that was turned away for a corner. And he might have done the trick again moments later when he just failed to make enough contact with a header from the corner.
Midleton, and Stack, picked up from where they left off on the restart with the midfielder having a free-kick turned away for a corner before centre-forward Loic Nguefang stung goalkeeper Padraig O’Donnell’s hands with two attempts from distance.
Carndonagh were living off counters at this stage but almost made them count twice in the third quarter with Rudden just caught offside on one probe and winger Mikey Friel forced to pull his shot wide by the advancing Nganou in the Midleton nets on the hour.
On it went, over and back.
The goal, when it finally came, was a well-orchestrated effort by Carndonagh that ended with a cross being headed into the bottom corner by Doherty who seemed to ghost in towards the six-yard box unnoticed.
Substitute Pearse McCarron almost made it 2-0 by clipping the post on the break as the clock turned into the red and Midleton threw caution to the wind but this always had the whiff of a game that would be decided by the one strike.
P O’Donnell, L McLaughlin, D Doherty, J Harkin, C O’Donnell, K Farren, M Friel, J Doherty, L Rudden, C McBride, F McClure. Subs: N Logue for D Doherty (59); P McCarron for Rudden (86).
A Nganou, D O’Halloran, M Ahern, S O’Riordan, J Collins, J Stack, N Cunningham, F Duggan, L Nguefang, M O’Reilly, C Whalley. Subs: J O’Hanlon for Cunningham (80).
Referee: D Carey (DDSL).