Kieran Bergin will have a crucial role to play for Killenaule in Semple Stadium on Sunday
Two in- form football teams are set for an intriguing battle in Semple Stadium on Sunday (3.30pm throw in) as Clonmel Commercials and Killenaule meet to contest the right to claim a county senior football title.
There is a world of difference in the football roll of honour attached to both clubs but that will count for little as Killenaule are well placed to offer favourites Clonmel Commercials a formidable challenge.
Munster and county champions in 2015, Commercials will be bidding for their 17th title while Killenaule will be appearing in their first ever senior county football final since the club was established in 1885.
The appearance of The Robins in the football showpiece ensures a novelty factor on the day but Killenaule, who only focus on football once their hurling season is over, are a well equipped, resilient side with quality players with county experience at all levels .
Another hurling club, Loughmore, have a reputation for upsetting the more traditional football clubs such as Commercials and Moyle Rovers on the big occasions and there is no doubt that this Killenaule team is capable of doing the same.
Killenaule have managed to secure two south football titles in 2012 and 2014 beating the traditional football teams and now hope to go on and do it in a county football final.
An experienced Commercials are well aware of the pedigree of the players available to Killenaule and know they will be punished if they fail to perform.
Commercials have come through the year having won every championship game in the south and county league/championship while Killenaule have tasted defeat on only one occasion, to Moyle Rovers in a south semi final replay.
Killenaule however gained sweet revenge for that defeat when they overcame Moyle Rovers after a titanic battle in the county semi final. It took a period of extra time to separate the teams but Killenaule emerged triumphant.
The celebrations that day in Cahir were special as Killenaule celebrated reaching their first ever final.
They had to call on their renowned team spirit and experience to achieve victory in a game they were in danger of being overrun in by a rampant Moyle Rovers in the first half.
Killenaule turned a six point deficit into a five point advantage in a remarkable first half turnaround and in the period of extra time needed Killenaule showed a killer instinct when they raced into a five point lead in the opening period of extra time.
Declan Fanning, who played for the county senior football team in 2002 before he was called into the county hurling panel, and Kieran Bergin, who returned to playing for the senior county footballers this year after Tipperary were knocked out of the hurling, were dominant figures for Killenaule in that extra time period.
Even though Commercials have serious county talent available including All-Star Michael Quinlivan, Jack Kennedy, the two Faheys and Jason Lonergan, they are well aware of the serious quality up the spine of the Killenaule team all with county experience behind them.
The Doyle brothers, captain Tony and Michael, have played county football. Goalie Matthew O'Donnell, Jimmy and Paidi Feehan, Paddy Codd, Cillian O'Dwyer and Eddie O’Brien are among the stellar contribution Killenaule have made to county football teams over the years.
Last year Killenaule failed to win a single championship game in the south and county but have managed to go on a great run this year, winning five, drawing one and losing one and doing that in a county group in which they were fourth seeds and they beat all of the teams seeded above them JK Brackens, Drom and Kilsheelan.
Commercials have gone one better having not lost a game all year.
Their closest shave came in the county quarter final when Arravale Rovers were unlucky not to pull off a shock win.
Commercials came through that contest with just a point to spare and were in for another battle against Loughmore in the semi final.
Commercials, coming into 2016 as county and Munster champions, were dethroned bv Loughmore in last year's semi final and the Clonmel side were determined not to allow that happen again.
They defeated Loughmore by 1.9 to 1-6 to secure their place in the final and those two bruising contests should stand to them on Sunday.
Commercials responded well to an early Loughmore goal on the day to be on level terms by half time but were in trouble again early in the second half until a goal from Jason Lonergan, set up by All-Star Michael Quinlivan and Ian Fahey, changed the course of the game.
Like Killenaule, Commercials have also had to deal with the dual issue and Jason Lonergan is just one of up to eight of their players that have been involved in the St.Mary’s success story this year.
Those dual players collected a county intermediate hurling title last weekend and they will be out to secure a wonderful double.
“Clonmel is on a high - if you add it all up: Clonmel Óg are in an intermediate county final, if they win that they go senior, our own ladies team won the intermediate county title and now they are gone senior. It is the first time ever that Commercials are senior in both ladies and gents football. St Mary’s, obviously, won the intermediate hurling (county title) and now they are gone senior. If we could get over the line now in the senior final it would really cap it all. And, I don’t think anyone would complain if the GAA was doing well in Clonmel - it has a reflection on all levels in the county. So far, so good and, hopefully, we can crown it by winning the big one.” said selector Martin Quinlivan.
Killenaule manager Kenneth Browne said his players knew they have the quality to compete at this level.
“We have three or four lads on the county team for the last few years there; there is a good representation from the club at minor and under-21 level as well.
“We topped our group in the county and we won our three games and it built from there. We won three games - not by default, we won them playing our full team with our county hurlers included.
“We went out of the South hurling and there was the South football championship there and that led us to here.
“We had three epic games against Moyle Rovers to get to here and one against Aherlow as well.” said the manager.
He pointed out that since their exit from the hurling training for the football has gone very well and the games against Moyle Rovers were invaluable.
“The South championship matches really drove the thing on. The lads have taken on a completely different attitude to what, maybe, they would have three months ago when they were still involved in the hurling” said Kenneth Browne who is also the clubs senior hurling manager.
“They have taken everything in their stride,” said the Killenaule manager who hopes to guide his charges to victory in Semple Stadium on Sunday.