Clonmel Commercials bidding to turn the tables on holders Thomas MacDonaghs in north/south battle for O’Dwyer Cup

County Senior Football Championship Final preview

County Senior Football Championship Final preview

Eamonn Wynne

Sunday’s County Senior Football Final between Clonmel Commercials and the North combination team Thomas MacDonaghs is a repeat of last year’s semi-final.

The Clonmel club are chasing their 15th title and a first county senior championship in 10 years and they know that MacDonaghs, the holders, are likely to take some beating.

Teams from the north of the county were once regarded as a soft touch but this MacDonaghs outfit, a divisional team in all but name, is a formidable one.

In that semi-final on a very wet day in Holycross just over 12 months ago their big and strong side outfought Commercials, winning by 1-5 to 0-6. Sunday’s re-match is likely to be similarly close and keenly contested.

Commercials’ appearance in the final is a culmination of County Minor and U-21 success in recent seasons and they’ve been building steadily towards what they hope will be a return to their glory days at senior.

They needed extra-time to squeeze past Loughmore/Castleiney in last weekend’s semi-final in Cashel. They were leading by 6 points in added time when Liam McGrath somehow scored two goals from frees to push the game into extra time.

Despite that setback Commercials held their nerve in added time to secure their berth in the final for the first time since 2002, when they beat Aherlow at Semple Stadium.

They can call on several players from the successful Tipperary Minor teams of the last two years including Michael Quinlivan, Ian Fahey, Seamus Kennedy, Colman Kennedy, Evan Comerford and Jason Lonergan, all of whom have made significant contributions in their surge to the decider.

Other more experienced players have also had a major impact this season. Fergal Condon has been an inspirational captain while Kevin Harney, Aldo Matassa, Ian Barnes, Niall Kelly, Donal Lynch and Danny Madigan have been equally impressive.

However last Sunday’s victory came at a cost, as the straight red card that he received in additional time in the build-up to Liam McGrath’s second goal from a free will rule Niall Kelly out of the final.

On the plus side Johnny Harney, who was also sent off when he received two yellow cards, will be available for this weekend’s showpiece.

It will be interesting to see if their exertions during the last few weeks will have taken a toll on Thomas MacDonaghs. The final will be their fourth match in the space of a fortnight, one more than their opponents. They include a quarter-final against Eire Og Annacarty that went to a replay and last Monday’s semi-final against South champions Killenaule, which they won by 1-5 to 0-6, while some of their players were also on junior championship duty with Borrisokane last weekend.

Last year they became the first team from the division since Kilruane MacDonaghs in 1975 to lift the O’Dwyer Cup, when they beat Moyle Rovers by 0-9 to 0-7 in the final in Cashel, and they proved it was no flash in the pan by reaching the final again this year.

Their line-up includes Tipperary senior captain Liam Austin and other familiar names include county senior George Hannigan; Toomevara’s David Young, better known for his hurling exploits; Kildangan’s Tommy Connors, Joe Carroll of Inane Rovers and Fergal Hayes of Kildangan.

While the holders won’t surrender their crown too easily, it all seems to be coming together for the Clonmel club at the right time. With that momentum behind them, and with a freshness in their ranks that MacDonaghs mightn’t have after their recent busy campaign that saw them play two matches in four days last weekend, Commercials get a hesitant vote to return to the summit.