With County Senior Champions Rathvilly fielding several senior players in this game, they might have been expected to have the beatings of their neighbours, Clonmore. However, this is a special group of players that Clonmore have developed - they previously contested County U14 and U17 A Finals in 2015 and 2018 and they are now in the 2021 U20 A Final on merit having produced an assured performance to defeat Rathvilly by eight points in Netwatch Training Centre, Fenagh, on Friday evening.
Rathvilly came out all guns blazing and had three points on the board from senior players Padraig Bolger, Kevin Murphy and the excellent Conor O'Neill to lead 0-3 to no score at the first water break. Sensing that the game was slipping away, the Clonmore men lifted their game and Dylan Doyle was unlucky to hit the post with a goalbound shot in the 17th minute. Doyle was not to be denied however and within seconds he was at the end of a flowing move to punch the ball to the net despite Tom Pilkington's valiant efforts to keep it out. Clonmore took confidence from this score and Billy Lawlor quickly followed up with a point, and then came another goal, this time from livewire full-forward Oisín Doyle, after a powerful run by Luke Connolly. Two further points from the influential Jordan Tallon left Clonmore in a strong position at half-time: 2-3 to 0-4.
The second half started well for Rathvilly with Conor O'Neill scoring two excellent points but these were quickly canceled out by Oisín Doyle and Jordan Tallon points. With Kenneth Bello fielding well at centre-field, Rathvilly threw everything into attack but the Clonmore defence was immense, led by Captain, Cormac Connolly, who was ably assisted by central defenders Anthony Kealy-McDonald and Billy Lawlor. All Rathvily had to show for a period of sustained pressure was a single long range point from the left boot of Kevin Murphy but, again, Clonmore replied with points by Oisín Doyle and Sean Moran to leave the score at the second water break 2-7 to 0-7.
After the water break, Dylan Doyle stretched Clonmore's lead with a beautiful point off the outside of his boot. Rathvilly centre-back Pauric Deering then made an incisive run up the middle but his shot for a goal flashed wide of the Clonmore posts. Oisín Doyle put the final nail in the Rathvilly coffin in the 55th minute when he picked up a loose ball in the Rathvilly goal area and finished it to the net - 3-9 to 0-7 on 55 minutes.
Brandon Kelly was one of Rathvilly's brightest sparks, making several pacey runs, and his perseverance was rewarded in the 61st minute when he got to the ball before Clonmore keeper, Aaron Corless, to score a consolation goal for the Rathvilly men - full-time: 3-9 to 1-7.
The Final between Clonmore and Eire Óg is provisionally fixed for Monday, 27 December, at 2pm in Netwatch Cullen Park, but this is subject to change.
Clonmore: Aaron Corless, Darragh McKernan, Anthony Kealy-McDonald, James Whelan, Jake Hickey, Billy Lawlor (0-1), Cormac Connolly, Luke Connolly, Jordan Tallon (0-3), Eoin Connolly, Rory Maguire, Robert Bulmer, Dylan Doyle (1-2,1f), Oisín Doyle (2-2), Sean Moran (0-1). Sub: Marty Walsh for Rory Maguire (58 mins).
Rathvilly: Tom Pilkington, Dara Curran, Paddy Reilly, Pauric Byrne, Pauric Deering, Pauric White, Kenneth Bello, Cian Leonard, Conor O'Neill (0-4, 1f,1m), Jack Nolan, Kyle Byrne, Brandon Kelly (1-0), Kevin Murphy (0-2), Padraig Bolger (0-1). Subs: Luke Colman for Paddy Reilly, Sean Corcoiran for Kyle Byrne, Tadhg Walsh for Jack Nolan, Pauric McGuirk for Conor O'Neill.
Referee: Jonathan Murphy (St Mullins).