With a fully deserved win over Clonmel Commercials at Monroe on Wednesday night last Cahir footballers booked their place in the last eight of the County SF Championship.
Having already defeated Moyne/Templetuohy, Clonmel Og and Arravale Rovers in their group, this latest game against the county champions of two years ago had a tangible prize on offer for the winners, a direct route to the last eight of the county championship.
It was Tom McGlinchey’s side who seemed more determined on the night and looked that bit more cohesive and intent. They appear a much improved outfit from last year and may yet have a say in the destination of county silverware before year’s end.
Commercials will be disappointed with the outcome and the overall performance. However, the absence of three county players - Michael Quinlivan, Ian Fahey and Colman Kennedy, plus also the unavailability of Luke Moore and county minor Paudie White was too much to concede to a side of the calibre of Cahir. The Clonmel side will now have to retain their South title if they are to win back the O’Dwyer Cup which they last held in 2012. It goes without saying that they will need all their big guns firing from here on in.
Paddy O’Flaherty opened the scoring for Cahir in the third minute with a well taken point from 40 metres. Commercials were quickly into their stride though and Conal McCullagh was making a nuisance of himself to the Cahir backline. The Tyrone man kicked a pair of points between the fourth and seventh minutes, both resulting from ball won at midfield by young Jack Kennedy. Sandwiched in between McCullagh’s points was a free by Ian Barnes.
Lively corner-forward James McGrath got a point back for Cahir but Commercials were definitely enjoying their best period of the game. Another free by Ian Barnes after McCullagh was fouled, followed by a Jamie Peters effort after a slow build-up put Commercials 0-5 to 0-2 to the good on the quarter-hour mark.
The rest of the first half was Cahir’s though and Commercials were held scoreless to half-time.
A pair of identical points in the space of two minutes from Benny Hickey, both off the left leg from dead centre 35 metres out reduced the deficit to a minimum by the 23rd minuted. Parity was restored a few minutes later when Padraig Whelan pointed out of his hands after James McGrath had won the free.
Cahir hit the front on the half-hour. Paddy O’Flaherty, looking back to his best and covering a world of ground between the two 40m lines, pointed after Sean O’Connor did the spadework. Padraig Whelan with his second free, after Shane Murphy was impeded, sent Cahir in satisfied at the break leading 0-7 to 0-5.
Commercials restarted the better and had the first three scores of the second period. Jason Lonergan, one of their hardest-working on the night, pointed a free after McCullagh had earned it when running straight at the Cahir backline. Seamus Kennedy though was Commercials trump card and a pair of excellent points kicked from 30 metres put his side back in front. For both Kennedy had to work hard to create the space for himself against a hard-working and funnelling Cahir defence.
Just when it looked the pendulum was swinging towards Tommy Morrissey’s side, Cahir upped the effort again. Benny Hickey’s poor attempt at a free fortuitouslycame back out to him and this time he made no mistake to level matters.
With the game there for the taking it was Cahir who struck a huge blow 10 minutes from time. Liam Casey delivered a fine pass along the end line to James McGrath who from the edge of the square needed two attempts to beat Jake McDonald in the Commercials goal.
After Robbie Costigan was fouled Padraig Whelan extended the advantage to four with a free. With their tails up Cahir strung together a nice move involving Dean Lonergan, Liam Casey and Padraig Whelan before Niall McKenna kicked a good point. Five up with five minutes left it looked all over for Commercials.
But it wasn’t. Cahir started living dangerously in defence and when a ball came back off the crossbar they failed to clear at their lines and Richie Carroll’s block on Mikey O’Connor ended up in the back of the net. Conal McCullagh’s 58th minute free had it back to just one before Conor Casey, now operating up in the forwards, had the last score of the game much to the relief of the Cahir contingent.
Cahir will be delighted with the significance of this victory. As a team they worked harder and were more economical with their shooting. The half-back line of O’Connor, Casey and Costigan did well while Hickey and O’Flaherty stood up to their resposibiltities in the forward line. Liam Casey at midfield improved late on with some vital possessions.
Commercials were seriously disadvantaged with the absence of some of their main men. Seamus Kennedy, Jack Kennedy, Jason Lonergan and Conal McCullagh couldn’t be faulted for their effort on the night but all will know there’s a lot of work ahead.
Cahir: Brian Enright, Mikey O’Connor, Gerald Halley, Conor Casey (0-1), Sean O’Connor, Aidan Casey, Robbie Costigan, Diarmuid Tarrant, Liam Casey, Benny Hickey (0-3, 0-1F), Niall McKenna (0-1), Paddy O’Flaherty (0-2), Padraig Whelan (0-3F), Shane Murphy, James McGrath (1-1).
Subs: Dean Lonergan for Tarrant; Tom O’Gorman for Murphy.
Clonmel Commercials: Jake McDonald, Fergal Condon, Jamie Peters (0-1), Shane Taylor, Danny Madigan, Donal Lynch, Kevin Fahey, Kevin Harney (Capt.), Seamus Kennedy (0-2), Padraic Looram, Richie Carroll (1-0), Jason Lonergan (0-1F), Ian Barnes (0-2F), Conal McCullagh (0-3, 0-1F), Jack Kennedy.
Subs: John Harney for Barnes; Aldo Matassa for Taylor; Niall Kelly for Madigan.
Referee: Sean Lonergan (Moyle Rovers).