Reigning county champions Clonmel Commercials justified favouritism at Monroe on Sunday evening last to claim the South Senior Football title with more than a little to spare in the end.
At very short odds of 1/4 with the bookmakers prior to the final, the Clonmel side never looked like being turned over at any stage. The nearest Kilsheelan/Kilcash came to them was a single point at half-time, 0-4 to 0-3, but Commercials would have been disappointed at such a slender half-time advantage having had much the better of the opening 30 minutes.
Whatever went on in the Commercials dressingroom at the break shook them up considerably and the same 15 players emerged with a much more direct plan for the second period. Within eight minutes they had stretched a one point lead to eight, 1-8 to 0-3. The match was effectively over for Kilsheelan at this juncture as they never looked capable of running up a large match-winning tally against a committed and dogged Commercials rearguard.
Commercials began the scoring impressively in the opening minute when midfielder Ian Fahey ran through unchallenged to point. A goal chance soon followed with wing-back Luke Moore linking with Michael Quinlivan before Moore’s effort was stopped at the expense of a 45.
After the initial burst the game settled into the short passing type with both sides moving the ball across the width of the field, sometimes backwards, trying to eke out openings. It took until the 11th minute for a second score to come, with Ian Barnes pointing after a movement involving Michael Quinlivan and corner-back Kevin Fahey.
For a few moments tempers frayed and referee Seanie Lonergan issued two players from both sides with yellow cards. And while a total of seven yellows were brandished over the hour it was never anything but a sporting contest.
Commercials stretched their lead 0-4 to 0-0 by the 23rd minute with frees from Ian Barnes and Michael Quinlivan and were so in control of proceedings that it took until the 21st minute for Kilsheelan to register their first wide of the game.
Kilsheelan eventually settled towards the end of the half and enjoyed their best spell of the final in the run up to half-time, scoring three unanswered points.
Patrick Larkin, who was trying to lead his team by example at every opportunity, was fouled going forward in the 24th minute and Michael McHugh opened Kilsheelan’s account from the resultant free. Again McHugh pointed a long range free against a stiffening breeze in the 31st minute to give his side encouragment and right on the stroke of half-time Kilsheelan had their first point from play when Adrian Walsh’s short free was converted by centre-forward Jimmy Ryan.
Going in at 0-4 to 0-3 down Kilsheelan would have been the happier of the teams but the late first half resurgence proved to be a false dawn as things transpired.
In the first two minutes of the second half Commercials corner-forward Ian Barnes was like a man on a mission and scored a brace of delightful points from play, one with his right and the second with his left leg out near the wing - the best point of the game.
County star Michael Quinlivan was at centre-forward for the second half and his strong running at the Kilsheelan defence was causing serious problems. Quinlivan linked up with Colman Kennedy before pointing in the 34th minute and shortly afterwards Richie Carroll just about made enough room for himself close in to stretch the lead to 0-8 to 0-3 after 37 minutes.
In a low-scoring encounter a goal was going to make a huge difference and while Kilsheelan needed it more, Commercials were the ones to raise the green flag. A passing movement involving half a dozen players saw Quinlivan put Ian Fahey in with an opportunity but the man of the match unselfishly and wisely passed onto Colman Kennedy and the proven goalscorer did what he does best once again.
Ian Barnes added further frees in the 41st and 44th minute to shove the scoreboard out to 1-10 to 0-3 and thereafter it was academic.
Michael McHugh scored another two frees for Kilsheelan, on either side of another Ian Barnes free.
The last points of the game came from Commercials substitute Niall Kelly in the 56th minute and from Adrian Walsh for Kilsheelan in the 59th minute, only their second point from open play in an hour’s football..
Commercials will be satisfied with their business-like win. They had some good performances on the night from Ian Barnes, Michael Quinlivan, Donal Lynch, Richie Carroll and Ian Fahey.
Kilsheelan never really got their grip on the game the way they needed to but David Corcoran, Eoghan Ryan, Bill and Paul Maher, Adrian McGuire, Patrick Larkin and Michael McHugh gave it their all.