Clonmel Town U/12s did the club proud on Sunday with a magnificent performance in the national finals of the Danone Cup.
While the ultimate prize of a trip to Poland in September to represent Ireland in the World Cup finals eluded them, the team put in a heroic display at the AUL headquarters in Clonshaugh to top their group and reach the national final against St.Joseph’s from Dublin.
An elite eight teams had qualified to fight it out for the right to represent their country in Poland, having won their regional finals, and the teams were split into two groups of four on the day.
Clonmel Town were drawn against favourites St.Kevin’s Boys of Dublin, Corinthians of Cork City and Portlaoise. They took on the might of St.Kevin’s in their first game and after an initial settling in period Town gave an excellent account of themselves.
Clonmel soaked up the early pressure with Diarmuid Mulcahy, Luke O’Donnell and Sam Dwyer closing down the opportunities for the pacy Dublin side. Goalie Brian Quirke pulled off some excellent saves and as the game progressed Town managed to settle and create problems for St.Kevin’s Boys.
Captain Jack O’Donnell and John Furlong battled tenaciously as Clonmel Town started to put St.Kevin’s under pressure. Both sides searched for a breakthrough but the contest ended in a scoreless draw after a pulsating twenty minutes of football.
It was a superb start to the tournament for Clonmel but with less than a ten minute turnaround to the next game ag, the Clonmel team, after their exertions against St.Kevin’s, looked a little flat against Portlaoise. Clonmel lost out 1-0 in a game that they enjoyed plenty of possession in but could not make it count.
Town were under enormous pressure heading into their final game of the group, with a win required, and the result of the other match in the group needed to go their way if they were in with a chance of making the final.
They took on Corinthians of Cork in their final group game and played wonderful football, outplaying their opponents with slick, stylish play on an excellent surface in their best performance of the day.
Peter O’Dowd opened the scoring with a screamer to the top corner after he was picked out with a beautiful pass from Brian Lacey who minutes later pounced on a defensive error in the Corinthian defence to give Clonmel a 2-0 lead.
Defenders Dara Murphy, Gavin Byrne and Mark Fannon stood firm as Corinthians applied the pressure and while they pulled one back Jake Guinan unleashed a piledriver of a shot to get Clonmel’s third goal and seal the victory.
There was an anxious wait for the outcome of the other game in the group and because that ended in a draw three teams ended up level with four points at the top of the group.
Those goals against Corinthinas proved crucial, however, for Clonmel who went through to the final thanks to a superior goal difference.
The Clonmel town team walked out for the final against St. Joseph’s before a large crowd and a wonderful atmosphere.
The prize was huge, a national title and the honour of representing Ireland in the World Finals in Warsaw in September.
Town were under a lot of pressure early on but gradually found their way into the game. Unfortunatley in time added on for injury before the half time break St.Joseph’s scored to strike a killer blow.
In the second half Clonmel Town worked hard to try and create an opening for striker Donal McCabe but while chasing the game Clonmel were caught and conceded a second with minutes to go. St.Joseph’s were a very polished team, a strong unit that were very well drilled in defence and Town found it hard to create chances in the final.
The Town players did their club proud and were applauded off the field at the final whistle by their families and the club members who travelled to Dublin to support the team.
It was a remarkable achievement for the squad to reach the last eight and then against the odds to make it to the final in such illustrious company.
The team showed that they can compete with the very best teams in the country and their display further enhanced the reputation Clonmel Town has at schoolboys level.