CLONMEL COMMERCIALS 4-11
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.
In the first half with the strong breeze at their backs Commercials opened the scoring after just 20 seconds when Ian Barnes pointed. Loughmore levelled when John McGrath playing at wing-forward converted a free from 20 metres.
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. Almost immediately the ball came back in to the full-forward line and Johnny Harney had a glorious chance of another goal but David McGrath saved superbly.
Ian Barnes then kicked a free from an acute angle and Commercials were leading by 1-2 to 0-1 after 10 minutes.
Loughmore responded immediately. Liam Treacy at centre-forward kicked a point on the run and a minute later was involved in a move with David Kennedy ending with John McGrath being hauled down. Last year’s All-Ireland minor football winning captain Liam McGrath blasted home the penalty. Game level again at 1-2 apiece.
Back came Commercials with two quick points, one from a Barnes free and the other from play by Niall Kelly after good work by Richie Carroll.
John McGrath was proving a handful up the left wing and Shane Taylor received the first yellow card of the game for persistent fouling. (Over the course of the 80 minutes, two red cards and 11 yellow cards were brandished). Liam McGrath fired over a difficult free off the ground into the wind to reduce the lead to a minimum after 20 minutes.
A one point advantage with such a strong breeze was little comfort to Commercials and they needed to respond quickly. 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.
In the run-up to the break John McGrath pointed from play for Loughmore before Barnes finished a good first half with another close-in free.
Half-time 2-5 to 1-4 in favour of the South team but would it be enough against the wind?
Commercials introduced two subs at the break bringing on minors Jason Lonergan and Colman Kennedy and both in turn would prove a handful for the Loughmore defence.
John McGrath was ‘taken out’ shortly after the restart when in a dangerous position, and Liam McGrath pointed the free.
The game went seven minutes without a further score as both teams played possession football with a reluctance to shoot for scores.
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.
But all day long they levelled and levelled again, but they never once led. There was a dogged determination by Commercials evident, implying a message of thus far but no further.
Commercials needed to respond once again and they did it in emphatic style scoring 2-2 without reply in six minutes.
Michael Quinlivan began to express himself much more and started running at the defence at every opportunity. One such run resulted in a fine point to restore Commercials advantage after 42 minutes. Quinlivan and Colman Kennedy then combined before the latter pointed.
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.
The Mid side introduced Derek Bourke and Joseph Nyland in a double substitution with 10 minutes remaining in a last throw of the dice.
Two pointed frees from Liam Treacy and Liam McGrath reduced the deficit to six points with six minutes remaining but Commercials seemed fully in control and in no real danger.
With time almost up Loughmore were reduced to 14 men with the dismissal of Tom King.
What happened after that was amazing.
In the 62nd minute a free for Loughmore was moved in closer to goal and Liam McGrath blasted past a packed goal. In the 64th 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 Kevin Harney kicked the initiative back to Commercials in the first minute with a point from the ‘40’. What an inspiration he was all day at midfield, distributing, blocking and putting his body on the line time and again.
Ian Barnes added another fine point as Commercials took advantage of the wind to lead by two.
In quick succession the re-introduced Johnny Harney received two yellow cards and is fortunate to be available for the final.
Substitute Shane Hennessy pointed a free for Loughmore just before the interval and now with only a point to make up in the second half of extra-time the game was still all in the melting pot.
The same Shane Hennessy levelled matters (for the fourth time in the game) in the second minute and with the breeze at their backs Loughmore were the happier. Hennessy’s equaliser was their last score of the day though. Never once, significantly, over 80 minutes of football did they lead.
Two minutes from the end of extra-time Danny Madigan made a great run upfield to be fouled and Ian Barnes converted. A minute later Colman Kennedy stretched it to two with a good point from play.
This time there was to be no more heroics from Loughmore.
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, 3-3F), 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).