ON October 15th 2005 Clonakilty destroyed Wanderers in Dublin to record their first win in the AIL campaign of that wonderful season which saw them lift the cup in Lansdowne Road seven months later.
Unbelievably that was the last time Clon won their opening game of the All Ireland League.
That situation will have to wait another year at least to be rectified but last Saturday Clon got off to their best start since 2005 by sharing the points with a strong City of Armagh outfit.
Clon Centurions, Alfie Harte, David Lombard and Mike Keohane were involved on both days and played very significant parts in both results.
The Armagh men travelled with news of their squad-strengthening pre-season recruitment travelling before them.
They had finished a very creditable sixth in the previous season and with their additions were expected to challenge for higher honours.
On the day, Clon will have felt tinges of disappointment at not taking all the points given their home advantage and the opportunities created, especially in the closing stages, to win the game.
This must be tempered by the fact that Armagh also let it slip when one of their players was put through the defence with an unprotected line 15 metres in front of him and inexplicably dropped the ball.
This two points will have helped the squad’s confidence as they travel this Saturday for another tough assignment in Nenagh where the local’s will fancy their chances of taking the points.
Nenagh finished seventh, one place and one win behind Armagh, last season and are also rumoured to have recruited well.
Clon’s first outing at this level however will have encouraged coaches, Kevin O’Regan and Maurice Downey greatly as they had precious little opportunity prior to this game to put anything resembling their finished squad into a competitive fixture.
Conditions were perfect with plenty of sunshine and a little breeze.
Clon got off to a great start when Eanna Kelliher scored a superb try out wide following some wonderful interplay between backs and forwards with Batt Duggan and Mark Purcell prominent.
The young winger showed his potential when beating his man with an inside line change of direction but he unfortunately injured an ankle 10 minutes later and had to leave the field.
James Deasy converted wonderfully from an awkward angle and when he added another penalty from 40 metres out the home crowd were daring to believe after just 12 minutes.
Armagh got back in the game with a Steenson penalty after 34 minutes and then added another three minutes into the second half to reduce Clon’s lead to four.
With unanswered scores either side of half time, the tide was definitely changing and there was a nervy edge to the home team’s play.
A disputed penalty to Armagh was taken quickly and moved crisply.
Danger man, Josh Morton, showed why he is celebrated in song by carving the home defence to pieces with line and pace to score a try.
Steenson converted to give the northerners the lead after only seven minutes of the half.
Clon never threw in the towel and sustained pressure in which Clonakilty showed patches of play reminiscent of the best days with backs and forwards working together to take the ball from their own 22 to the Armagh 22.
The penalty was inevitable. It was a pressure kick but Deasy stroked it coolly to tie the scores going into a final quarter that saw Clon just fail to seal a win but they also succeeded in preventing a loss in the first game for the first time since 2005.
The squad was Chris Spearman, James Deasy, Kieran Howlin, David Lombard, Eanna Kelliher, Joe Lee, Mark Purcell, Alfie Harte, Courtney Canning, Batt Duggan (Capt), Tomás Keogh, Mike Keohane, Aidan Foley, Stephen Cotter, Gary Shannon, Cathal Kirby, Seán Dignan, Ger McCarthy, Peter Deane and Gearóid Calnan.
New signings this season Chris Spearman looked menacing with ball in hand and Courtney Canning has added to the physical presence of the back row.
Joe Lee, back after a long absence, was a steady hand at 10 and Gearóid Calnan, coming on for Kelliher, slotted in seamlessly.
Aidan Foley, back from an injury that had kept him out for most of last season, showed just what Clon had missed.
A very encouraging start from a squad that can still be strengthened.
An unfortunate injury to Armagh’s impressive scrum half, Harry Doyle, stopped the game for a while as every precaution was taken.
The club is very thankful for the attention given by regular supporter and paramedic, Frank Swanson and to Dr. Yvonne Hayes who also attended promptly.
Harry was taken to CUH and after detailed examination was released and was able to return home with his team mates on Sunday none the worse for the experience.
This week’s Fixtures:
All Ireland League: Clonakilty v Nenagh Ormond in Nenagh – 2.30pm??
Sunday:?J2 League: Kinsale v Clonakilty in Kinsale – 12 noon?
J3 League: Crosshaven v Clonakilty in Crosshaven – 2.15pm