WHEN Charleville look back on the All-Ireland intermediate final at Croke Park the old cliché, a game of two halves, will very much be on their minds.
At half-time, as selector John Moloney, said afterwards, they were comfortable and happy with the way things had gone to that point.
However the second half, in many ways, could only be described as their worst nightmare.
Everything that could go wrong seemed to go wrong for the north Cork side, but even at that, they were right in contention up to the final minute.
Three key moments in the game, two sending’s off and a penalty proved too much for them and indeed would have for most sides.
Even after the first sending off they were still well in the game and at that point, the worst case scenario looked like being taken to extra-time, when they would have been back to the full complement of 15.
By the second sending off, added to by the late penalty were just two blows they couldn’t recover from, despite a magnificent effort from those that remained on the pitch.
From an effort and gutsy performance they certainly can’t be faulted and many a side would have caved, but not Charleville.
Maybe that was down to youthful enthusiasm, with six or so of their starting 15 are U20, added to by the desire of the older players to make up for their junior loss in 2011.
Overall you can’t take away from their performance and Moloney was quick to point out afterwards that no blame was being attached to the two players sent to the line and that they win and lose as a team.
But have no doubt these two will look back and will always wonder what if and there are not too many players who wouldn’t feel the same way.
Moral victories are not words many want to hear and really there is no such thing, but there is such a thing as character.
And credit must be given to selectors Moloney, Ben O’Connor and Tony McAuliffe for the way they spoke afterwards and the honesty in what they said, particularly when the heartbreak at their defeat was evident to see in their faces.
But special mention must be made of their captain, Daniel O’Flynn, who came out and faced the media when many a player would have with some justification dodged that request.
O’Flynn was one of the survivors from their junior loss and reflected on this as well as their defeat afterwards.
“We had as good a first half in Croke Park as we could possibly have hoped for. Every ball we touched seemed to stick and we were creating chances and even had one or two extra goal chances and we felt very confident at half time.
“There is no point in saying otherwise, we rarely go in ahead and this was something that we were thriving on. Everything seemed to be going well, but in fairness, Oranmore-Maree came out in the second half and put us under pressure.
"At that they still didn’t seem to be able to bridge that four-point gap before the two dismissals put us under pressure.
"Even at that though we still came back into the game and Darren Casey had a great chance at the end but their goalie pulled off a great save that could have put us ahead and we could have snatched the game.
“The first time I came up here in 2011 it was an experience – we admired everything, this time we came up to win and we just didn’t pull it off and that is the disappointing thing.”
Mentioning the younger players and asked if the occasion got to them he said far from it.
“Pure excitement. The giddiness of the young lads, I was even feeding off it myself but we were incredibly relaxed.
"The laughing and joking was great, we were all admiring the bus drivers skills as he reversed around a tight corner.
"That was the kind of mood we were in – relaxed – we did a great warm-up – then we burst out onto the pitch and although we were a little ropy in the first few minutes we got going and it was as good as you could hope for but look that was it.
“We were still ahead after the sending’s off and I thought there was a way more time left so when I looked up and saw 55 minutes I thought Jesus we are under pressure but then the penalty.
"I actually thought that Cian might have pulled off the save as he is very good at those but in fairness, Niall Burke is an excellent talent and he finished it well.
"Even at that we were still close enough but look it wasn’t to be.
"I don’t think the final scoreline was a fair reflection on us as there really was only about one or two points between the sides.”
O’Flynn is right, their overall display was one that would have won many a game, but two sending’s off and the late penalty was just too much for this gallant side in the end.