CLONMEL COMMERCIALS are county minor football champions for the third year in-a-row following their victory over a gallant JK Brackens at Leahy Park, Cashel, on Saturday afternoon last.
The shortest of favourites before throw-in, the Clonmel outfit had to call on all of their abundant skill and experience before prevailing by 10 points in the end.
This 16th title win not alone gives the minors the hallmark of special sporting greatness in County Tipperary with the ‘historic’ three-in-a-row seal of champions, but last Saturday’s success completed a magnificent week for the Clonmel club following on from the senior success the previous Sunday.
As things turned out on the day Commercials would have to dig much deeper than many expected they would, but in the true form of champions they stood up to be counted when needed and rallied from a two points half-time deficit to win comfortably in the end.
The triumph bestowed captain Colman Kennedy with the proud honour of being the first man to lift the brand new Michael Hogan Perpetual Cup recently presented to the County Board by the Tipperary Association Dublin.
The Templemore side with the aid of a strong breeze into the dressingroom end opened the scoring after three minutes when Colin O’Riordan’s short 45 to Dean McEnroe was sent high between the uprights. It was to be the only score in a tentative first 20 minutes of play as both sides tried to assert authority.
Commercials did have plenty of possession in this period but missed a few scoreable frees, running up seven wides in the opening half to just two for Brackens.
Colin O’Riordan, regarded by many as not alone the best minor in County Tipperary but one of the best in the whole country, was dominating midfield with majestic fielding and drives in to the heart of Commercials defence. Others to the fore for Brackens were Dean McEnroe and Sean Patrick Guerins, the three big men in the middle shading it in the early exchanges.
On 20 minutes Brackens went two to the good when a quick line ball was worked to Dean McEnroe who again pointed from 30 metres out.
Evan Comerford finally got the reigning champions on the scoreboard in the 22nd minute with a fine point from play.
The opening score settled Commercials and within a couple of minutes they went from two down to one to the good.
Corner-forward Liam Murchan was involved in the next two scores, setting up the always-dangerous Jason Lonergan in the 24th minute and then accepting a pass from Colman Kennedy to score himself in the 26th minute.
But Brackens weren’t here to make up the numbers. In time added on at the end of the first half a long ball played in from midfield saw Michael Greed round his marker only to be floored by Commercials keeper Michael Boland. With the last kick of the first half Dean McEnroe buried the penalty and Templemore led 1-2 to 0-3 at the end of an entertaining 30 minutes play.
Commercials returned for the second half a different team though and now with the advantage of the wind went about their business with an urgency. Within 45 seconds of the restart Jason Lonergan and Colman Kennedy linked up with Kennedy pointing. The message was crystal clear.
Colin O’Riordan, in turn kicked a point for Brackens from 30 metres against the wind, as he tried to lead his charges by example. But the Mid Tipp champions wouldn’t score again for 18 minutes and indeed it was to be their only point from play in the entire second period. The impending onslaught from Commercials would force them to sacrifice forwards for backs.
Colman Kennedy and Evan Comerford began to show more in the early stages of the second half. In the sixth minute Comerford won a free and pointed himself before another free two minutes later by Paudie White levelled matters at 0-6 to 1-3.
In the 10th minute Commercials introduced Shane Flynn and from then to the finish he proved a headache for the Brackens backs with his electrifying pace.
Three points in as many minutes followed as Commercials moved up a gear and all three were excellent and from distance with Colman Kennedy kicking two and Jason Lonergan the other.
Evan Comerford, beginning to enjoy his day-out as gamekeeper turned poacher, won another high ball only to be fouled and again kicked the free himself.
Seventeen minutes in to the second period Commercials put together a lightning fast four-man move involving Comerford, Kennedy, Looram and substitute Flynn with the latter blasting to the net.
Two minutes later Comerford kicked another delightful free from out on the right wing and now Commercials led 1-11 to 1-3.
Commercials were gathering momentum and the moving of Ian Fahey nearer to Colin O’Riordan was nullifying the effect of the Brackens man to some extent. But Templemore kept trying to work their way upfield and two frees in the 21st and 24th minutes from Dean McEnroe were token reward for this admirable effort.
In the dying minutes Commercials took complete control. In a brilliant move Shane Flynn linked up with three different players in a zig-zag movement to create a goalscoring chance for himself that went narrowly wide. However shortly afterwards he did manage to create an opportunity for Evan Comerford and the full-forward capped his poaching day by netting a goal. Just at the death the same player added another free for a personal tally of 1-5 on the day. Not a bad return for a player who six days earlier won a county senior medal as goalkeeper.
Incidentally four Commercials players played in the senior success the previous Sunday - Evan Comerford, Colman Kennedy, Ian Fahey and Jason Lonergan.
Commercials had many fine performances on a day when they had to fight a lot harder for the spoils than they have had to do all year. Darren Cass, Michael Connolly, Kevin Fahey and the ever hard-working Keith Browne were solid at the back. Colman Kennedy was their main man in the middle of the park aided by Ian Fahey. In the forwards Jason Lonergan, Pauric Looram and particularly Shane Flynn and Evan Comerford were excellent throughout.
Brackens won many friends on the day when their brave effort fell short. Colin O’Riordan was outstanding at midfield, Dean McEnroe and Sean Patrick Guerins were very prominent, while Eamon Kennedy, Conor Burke, James Bergin and Jordan Moloney also had their moments to take from this final.
Clonmel Commercials: Michael Boland, Cathal McGeever, Darren Cass, Ross Dennehy, Keith Browne, Kevin Fahey, Michael Connolly, Brian Walsh, Colman Kennedy (capt) (0-3), Jason Lonergan (0-2), Ian Fahey, Padraig White (0-1F), Pauric Looram, Evan Comerford (1-5, 0-4F), Liam Murchan (0-1).
Subs: Shane Flynn (1-0) for Liam Murchan; Jake McDonald for Brian Walsh; Liam Ryan for Michael Connolly; Joey Doyle for Kevin Fahey; Shane Moloney for Padraig White.
JK Brackens: Thomas Morrissey, Lee Fennell, Liam Murphy (capt), Conor Burke, Thomas Brett, Brian Kennedy, James Bergin, Colin O’Riordan (0-1), Sean Patrick Guerins, Jordan Moloney, Dean McEnroe (1-4, 0-2F), Karl Stakelum, Eamon Kennedy, Michael Greed, Jack Fogarty.
Subs: Joe Doyle for Lee Fennell; Michael O’Meara for Karl Stakelum.
Referee: Sean Lonergan (Moyle Rovers).