IF you wanted to pick your first outing in the provincial club series for a decade, you could probably pick an easier fixture than perennial contenders Dr Crokes on their home sod in Killarney.
Yet that’s the task facing Commercials this Sunday as they re-engage with the Munster championship for the first time since 2002, back when their current manager Philly Ryan was still keeping goal for the Clonmel kingpins.
“I think we over-celebrated a bit!,” Philly laughs as he remembers that day 10 years ago when they travelled to the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick to take on Monaleen, a very useful side who were supplying a hefty contingent to a Limerick inter-county team were knocking on the door of Munster glory.
“We had our chances,” the goalkeeper-turned-manager recalls, “but they were quite a good team at the time. We missed one goal chance with about seven or eight minutes to go, they came up and got a penalty and scored it and that more or less decided the match. The swing was six points in their favour.”
Few would have believed at the time that it would take Commercials so long to get out of the county championship again but the intervening years have seen county success go elsewhere, to the likes of Moyle Rovers, Aherlow, Galtee Rovers, Ardfinnan, Loughmore and Cahir.
Until this time around when the Clonmel side got revenge in the decider over last year’s winners Thomas McDonaghs - who beat them in the 2011 semi-final - to take the honours for the 15th time in the club’s history.
Now “all” that stand between them and a place in the Munster final are Colm Cooper and the rest at Dr Crokes.
“They have the household names and we have a lot of young lads, but a few mixed in with experience as well,” Philly Ryan said this week. “We’re just going to go down and play away and enjoy the game. We weren’t concentrating on anything else until after the county final but we’ve seen a bit of footage of them [Crokes] and we’re well aware of what they’re about.”
Dr Crokes just about got to this stage, travelling to Quilty to take on seasoned club campaigners Kilmurray-Ibrickane and emerging from a mud-soaked game with a 2-8 to 0-13 win to set up a home semi-final in Killarney.
After getting that fright, the Kerrymen will be more than psyched up for this game, for which they’re general 1/10 favourites with the bookies.
However, while the Commercials ranks (6/1 in the betting) are heavily populated by young guns they’ve a nice sprinkling of wise heads thrown in for good measure - players who waited a long time for county success like captain Fergal Condon, Danny Madigan, John Harney and Ian Barnes - and, while they may be in “bonus territory” having already achieved their main goal for the season, nobody is going to Killarney just for the sight-seeing.
“This is why we’re involved in GAA, for days like Sunday. All the pressure is on them but we’re not going to roll over. We’re going to open up and play a bit of ball, we’re not going down to play defensively. If we do ourselves justice, we’ll be in the hunt.”
* Throw-in on Sunday in Killarney is at 2pm, referee is Michael Collins from Cork and there will be extra-time if necessary.