By Michael Dundon at Semple Stadium, Thurles
North combination, Thomas MacDonagh’s reign as county senior football champions came to an abrupt end at Semple Stadium, Thurles on Sunday as a young, and very talented Clonmel Commercials, built on their three-in-row county minor winning teams, turned up the heat in the second half to finish comfortably clear winners by seven points.
Clonmel’s win was fully deserved. They were the better side in a contest, that while always entertaining, did not come up to expectations, largely due to the adverse weather conditions which militated against ball-handling skills and which saw players frequently lose their footing on the slippery surface.
A disappointing attendance of only 780 could not complain about the endeavour of the participants however, as both sides gave it everything but it was Commercials who got the all-important goal, eleven minutes into the second half when only two points separated the sides, 0-5 to 0-3 in Commercials’ favour.
Just as he did in the All-Ireland minor football final last year against Dublin, Colman Kennedy showed his flare for match-winning goals in big games. After a MacDonaghs move broke down in the Commercials half, Ian Fahy, John Harney, and Jason Lonergan linked up swiftly and intelligently to prise open the MacDonaghs defence and set up Kennedy who took his goal with a composure that belied his young years. A minute later Ian Barnes pointed, and Commercials, six points clear, and oozing with confidence, were never going to be beaten.
MacDonaghs will justifiably argue that had they got a goal at any stage they could well have gone on to win but really they never threatened to breach the Commecials’ lines though they pressed desperately in the closing quarter chasing the goal they then needed to ignite a rally to save their crown.
At the presentation of the trophy to Commercials captain, Fergal Condon, county football chairman, Noel Morris, urged the new champions to drive on to be the first Tipperary club team to capture Munster honours. Standing between them and such a goal are the formidable Dr Crokes of Killarney who Commercials meet in the Munster semi-final on Sunday week.
Commercials Manager, Philly Ryan, who was goalkeeper when the club last won the county title in 2002, said afterwards “ we’ll give the Munster Club a rattle”, but they will need to raise their game above Sunday’s level to upset the Kerry champions.
Still, Commercials showed that they are well capable of lifting their game. Ryan said his charges play better “when the chips are down” and this was clearly the case on Sunday.
A rather pedestrian first half finished with the sides level, 0-2 each. Commercials had opened well, points by Ian Barnes and Colman Kennedy having them two ahead after twelve minutes. MacDonaghs did not score until the 22nd minute when defender Joe Carroll shot a fine point. Six minutes later Padraic O Meara added another, and that’s how it stayed until the break.
Philly Ryan said he was not happy with his team’s first half performance “ but a few choice words at the break seemed to have an effect”. They most certainly did as Commercials swung over three points in seven minutes through Aldo Matassa and Ian Barnes(2), to take the initiative. Seamus Hennessy kept MacDonaghs in touch with a neat point but then came Kennedy’s goal followed immediately by another Ian Barnes point, leaving Commercials 1-6 to 0-3 in front and very much looking the part of champions going into the last quarter.
With their title under serious threat, MacDonaghs fought like champions. Philip Austin, by far their most dangerous forward, pointed. Colman Kennedy responded for Commercials before Austin shot another, this time negatived by Jason Lonergan for Commercials.
Six points in it with ten minutes to go – MacDonaghs piled on the pressure in search of the goal they needed to rescue them but a stubborn and composed Commercials defence was equal to all that was thrown at them. Had MacDonaghs taken the points that were on offer, who knows what break they might have got. Instead, time was now against them and it was Commercials who had the last say, sub Alan Lonergan pointing two minutes from time to ensure their victory and their fifteenth Tipperary title.
In his fourth year in charge of Commercials, Philly Ryan spoke highly of his players. “We knew we had a lot of good young players but lads have to prove it on the big stage, and this they did today. We did not do ourselves justice in the first half but we turned it on in style afterwards. We wanted to go into the Munster club championship as county champions and I am very pleased that that is how it has worked out”, he added.
MacDonaghs coach, Kevin Mulryan said the opening ten minutes of the second half decided the game. “They got the goal from an intercepted pass in their own half and once they got that goal they could defend in numbers. They are a very good side, well-drilled, but we have a very committed bunch of players, and playing football at this level is good for the game in North Tipperary. Being a combination is not a disadvantage to us. These are an exceptional group of lads, very committed, and they play as though they have been together all their lives. We won a county final last year; we were in the final this year, and we will be back again next year to give it another lash”, he added.
Colman Kennedy’s opportunism was crucial to Commercials’ success, and he added two points to his goal for good measure. Seamus Kennedy, Danny Madigan, Kevin Harney, Ian Fahy, Ian Barnes and Michael Quinlivan were others to have a big influence for the winners.
MacDonaghs lack of fire-power meant that though they enjoyed reasonable possession, the return from it in terms of scores was poor. Only Philip Austin really threatened though Seamus Hennessy worked hard. The loss of Liam England through injury early in the second half, did not help either, though his midfield partnership with George Hannigan was not operating at peak performance. David Buckley, Fergal Hayes, and Tommy Connors were others to catch the eye.
Scorers Commercials – C Kennedy 1-2; I Barnes 0-4, 3fs; A Matassa, J Lonergan, A Lonergan, 0-1 each; Thomas MacDonaghs – P Austin 0-2; S Hennessy, P O Meara, J Carroll 0-1 each;
Commercials – Evan Comerford; Fergal Condon, Donal Lynch, Ciaran O Connell; Danny Madigan, Seamus Kennedy, Jamie Peters; Kevin Harney, Aldo Matassa; Luke Moore, Colman Kennedy, Ian Fahy; Ian Barnes, Michael Quinlivan, John Harney; Subs- Jason Lonergan for Moore; Richy Carroll for Fahy; Alan Lonergan for J Harney; Shane Taylor for Matassa; Eamon Hanrahan for C Kennedy;
Thomas MacDonaghs – Jim McDonnell (Inane Rovers); Martin Minehan (Kildangan), David Buckley (Inane), Ruairi Gleeson (Kildangan); Fergal Hayes (do), Niall O’Meara (Kilruane), Joe Carroll (Inane); Liam England (do), George Hannigan (Shannon Rovers); Joe Gallagher (Kildangan), Philip Austin (Borrisokane), Padraic O’Meara Shannon R.); David Young (Toomevara), Seamus Hennessy (Kilruane), Tommy Connors (Kildangan); Subs- Andrew Austin (Borrisokane) for England; Alan Hannigan (Borrisokane) for P O’Meara; Aaron Ryan (Inane) for Young;
Ref- Tom McGrath, Loughmore-Castleiney.