CLONMEL COMMERCIALS are through to their first county senior football final since 2002 following an extra-time victory over Loughmore/Castleiney on Sunday last in Leahy Park, Cashel. It was a game the Clonmel side forced themselves to win not once but twice, and the hard way, coming close to snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in a bizarre ending to an exciting game.
At the end of normal time and indeed into added time, Commercials led by six points, and everyone waited for Derek O’Mahoney’s full-time whistle to wrap up. Amazingly in the 62nd and 64th minutes Liam McGrath of Loughmore goaled with two close-in frees and the game had to go to extra-time.
The game exploded to life in the ninth minute with the first of the eight goals. A long free by Ian Fahey from almost on the half-way line saw Michael Quinlivan win an aerial duel to fist home. Loughmore responded immediately when last year’s All-Ireland minor football winning captain Liam McGrath blasted home the penalty.
A passing movement out of defence by Loughmore went astray and Michael Quinlivan picked up the breakdown, played a superb pass to Ian Barnes who goaled brilliantly to stretch the advantage to four.
Half-time 2-5 to 1-4 in favour of the South team but would it be enough against the wind?
Commercials were rocked back in the 39th minute when a long punt by John McGrath was fisted home by full-forward Paul Brennan. Level again at 2-5 each and with a strong breeze behind them Loughmore could have been expected to drive on from here.
Commercials needed to respond once again and they did it in emphatic style scoring 2-2 without reply in six minutes.
Moment of the match soon followed. A quick sideline ball from Aldo Matassa to Quinlivan who had only one thought in mind. The parallel running of his forwards pulled the Loughmore defence apart and Quinlivan scythed through to score a cracking goal.
A minute later Johnny Harney’s high ball in around the goalmouth was met by Ian Fahey’s fist, a second goal in a minute and an eight points lead.
With time almost up Loughmore were reduced to 14 men with the dismissal of Tom King.
What happened after that was amazing.
In the 32nd minute a free for Loughmore was moved in closer to goal and Liam McGrath blasted past a packed goal. In the 34th minute, Loughmore put together a move which won a free. Commercials Niall Kelly got a straight red. The ball was moved in further again and Liam McGrath did exactly what he did two minutes earlier. Another goal!
Full-time whistle blows 4-7 to 4-7.
In extra-time Commercials added four points to just two from Loughmore to advance to their first county senior final in 10 years.
Commercials will breathe an almighty sigh of relief to have prevailed in the end.
They should never have allowed themselves to concede two late-late goals in such a manner, even if they can feel somewhat aggrieved with the manner in which the extra yards were granted to Liam McGrath both times. Twice late in the game Loughmore had great goal chances which a craftier full-forward line might have converted. Commercials will know more than anyone there is still work to be done.
Once again on Sunday Kevin Harney was very impressive in everything he did and Ian Fahey, Aldo Matassa, Niall Kelly, Seamus Kennedy, Donal Lynch and Michael Quinlivan also stood out.
Loughmore will be gutted at losing and they know they had their chances of sneaking it. Level 10 minutes into the second half with a strong breeze at their backs, they were in a nice place to push on but they didn’t. A more direct approach at that stage might have yielded more.
John Meagher was their star performer at full-back and came to their rescue on numerous occasions. Others to do well were Ciaran McGrath, Noel McGrath, David Kennedy and Liam Treacy, while Liam McGrath, scoring 3-3 (all from frees/penalty) never stopped trying all day.
Clonmel Commercials: Evan Comerford, Danny Madigan, Donal Lynch, Fergal Condon (capt), Jamie Peters, Seamus Kennedy, Shane Taylor, Aldo Matassa, Kevin Harney (0-1), Ian Fahey (1-0), Niall Kelly (0-1), Richie Carroll, Ian Barnes (1-7, 0-4F), Michael Quinlivan (2-1), Johnny Harney.
Subs: Luke Moore for Fergal Condon (inj), Jason Lonergan and Colman Kennedy (0-2) for Shane Taylor and Richie Carroll (both half-time); Ciaran O’Connell for Johnny Harney; Stephen Buckley for Ian Fahey. Extra-time: John Harney re-introduced; Eamonn Hanrahan for Michael Quinlivan (inj).
Loughmore/Castleiney: David McGrath, Tom King, John Meagher, Tommy Long, Aidan McGrath, Ciaran McGrath, Willie Eviston, Noel McGrath, David Kennedy, Evan Sweeney, Liam Treacy (0-2, 0-1F), Cian Hennessy, Liam McGrath (3-3, 0-3F), Paul Brennan (1-0), John McGrath (0-2, 0-1F).
Subs: Derek Bourke and Joseph Nyland for Evan Sweeney and Cian Hennessy; Shane Hennessy (0-2) for John McGrath. Extra-time: Tomas McGrath introduced; John McGrath for Paul Brennan (inj); John Scully for Aidan McGrath.
Referee: Derek O’Mahoney (Ardfinnan).