Clean Ireland Recycling County
Senior Football Semi-Final
Clonmel Commercials 0-7
Loughmore-Castleiney’s dream of a county senior double is a step closer to realisation after this hard-earned one point win over holders, Clonmel Commercials in the Clean Ireland Recycling county senior football semi-final at Cashel on Sunday.
In a contest which never lived up to expectations in terms of quality football, these great rivals battled it out in a dour encounter with Commercials’ late rally producing two points but still leaving them one adrift at the finish.
Commercials will justifiably argue that they deserved at least a second chance, and could possibly have won had Loughmore goalie Dominic Brennan not denied Michael Quinlivan a certain goal in the 44th minute when he turned his rasper from close range over the bar.
Loughmore-Castleiney did not give the reigning champions the room to display their talents, and after eight minutes had three points on the board, courtesy of two Liam McGrath frees, and another from Aidan McGrath, who damaged his hamstring in the process and had to retire.
Jason Lonergan opened Commercials’ account in the 9th minute, the last score of a first half which became quite niggly approaching the break and which ended with four players getting yellow cards following a prolonged melee. Cian Hennessy and Noel McGrath were the Loughmore offenders with Jason Lonergan and Kevin Fahey from Commercials joining them in referee Keith O Brien’s notebook.
Things had to improve in the second half and they did, both in terms of the football and discipline. Commercials, now aided by the breeze, raised the tempo of their game and levelled inside three minutes with pointed frees from Michael Quinlivan and Ian Barnes.
It seemed the game was their’s for the taking but Loughmore had other ideas. Noel McGrath regained the lead for them in the 39th minute and Liam McGrath doubled the advantage two minutes later.
Back came Commercials. Michael Quinlivan was short of target with a free before bursting through to blast for goal in the 44th minute only for Dominic Brennan in the Loughmore goal to deflect the effort over the bar – a match-winning save, as it happened.
Colman Kennedy levelled for Commercials with a great point in the 50th minute and it was only now that the fans appeared to be getting the kind of action they came to see. Again it seemed the ball was in Commercials’ court but once more it was Loughmore who showed the greater heart. John McGrath, Liam McGrath from a free, and a glorious point from Noel McGrath, had the Mid lads three clear with four minutes to play.
Alan Lonergan came on for Commercials and made his presence felt by kicking a point from a 57th minute free. Ian Barnes did likewise a minute later to leave only one in it, and as Michael Quinlivan bore down on the Loughmore goals, an equaliser seemed inevitable, but he was penalised for over-carrying. There was very little added time and a battle-weary Loughmore-Castleiney were through to the final against Aherlow Gaels.
Loughmore-Castleiney performances in both hurling and football have earned them huge respect and all the ingredients that give substance to their displays were in evidence here. Despite an intense programme of big games in both codes on recent weeks, which must be taking a severe toll on their stamina, their spirit never wavers, no doubt in this instance motivated by the prospect of putting one over on the reigning champions.
Noel McGrath was an inspiring figure for them, named at midfield but operating everywhere, and kicking two great points from play. Kieran McGrath and John Meagher were at the heart of a Loughmore backline that never gave celebrated Commercials forwards an inch. Liam McGrath’s accuracy was also crucial while Miceal Webster was a worry to Commercial all the way, though not enjoying the best of service from his colleagues. Dominic Brennan’s second half save from Quinlivan was the difference between winning and losing in the final analysis.
Loughmore-Castleiney – D Brennan; L Egan, J Meagher, T Long; T King, C McGrath, J Ryan; N McGrath(0-2), D Kennedy; J McGrath(0-1), A McGrath(0-1), C Hennessy; L McGrath(0-4,4fs) M Webster, E Sweeney; Subs- J Hennessy for A McGrath; D Bourke for Hennessy;
Commercials – J O Mahoney; F Condon, D Lynch, K Fahey; J Peters, S Kennedy, L Moore; I Fahey, K Harney; C McCullagh, C Kennedy(0-1), A Matessa; I Barnes (0-2, 2fs), M Quinlivan(0-2, 1f), J Lonergan(0-1); Subs- P Looram; D Madigan; A Lonergan(0-1;
Ref- F O Brien.