One raking, high delivery into history for Clonmel Commercials

Dressing Rooms No 1 and No 2 are only feet apart at Mallow GAA’s stately Carrigoon complex, but the swing of a left foot yesterday daubed one in black and green despair, and turned the other into forever folk heroes in Tipperary.

One raking, high delivery into history for Clonmel Commercials

Zapruder-like frame-by-frame analysis of Michael Quinlivan’s match-winning goal in deepest injury time is legitimised only because it will continue anyway for weeks, months and years to come. Leaden skies and heavy going, sleeting rain and piercing cold created the perfect club championship backdrop.

Clonmel will always have November 29 in Mallow.

And in Quinlivan himself and Nemo Rangers’s veteran midfielder David Niblock, there are few more eloquent and articulate commentators of Clonmel Commercials’ dramatic passage into Munster Club GAA history.

“It was desperation at that stage,” Quinlivan suggested. “I kind of went up for it, more to see would I get the two Nemo defenders, Aidan O’Reilly and David O’Donovan, off the ground. It just flopped down off my hand to the side of us; 99 times out of 100 it doesn’t work and even then I knew I had to keep the shot underneath the defenders and low. Otherwise Micheal Martin, a top shot stopper, gets to it. It had to skid in...”

There’s a momentary pause, exquisitely timed, as one would expect of such a precocious young talent. “I don’t think we will ever have a sweeter one, will we?”

Unquestionably not. It was Seamus Darby. Or Donie Buckley, for those preferring a club comparison, the All-Ireland final winner for Castleisland Desmonds over St Vincent’s 30 years ago this year. Nobility’s always getting mugged, isn’t it?

Except this was no mugging. The leash on Clonmel’s ambitions of a first Munster title at their fifth attempt was their own lack of belief they possessed the wherewithal to defeat the mighty Nemo.

The Cork champions were hunting their 16th Munster Club title, but they were matched score for score in an easy-on-the-eye first half. Commercials had the majority of possession in the third quarter, but the point of their attack was unconvincing. In contrast, though Nemo trailed by a point after 45 minutes (0-6 to 0-7), they were more purposeful beyond midfield.

Getting Paul Kerrigan into the game catapulted them from two down to two points in front as the game ticked into two minutes of additional time.

Then came Seamus Kennedy’s raking, high delivery into history. Even as they filed — or rather danced — out of the dressing room, the Clonmel players eschewed the waiting bus and headed upstairs to watch the TG4 re-run of the final. Just to make sure.

The drama, and its aftermath, was all too real in the Nemo corridor of condolences. Niblock, now 34, said the dressing room was in pieces.

“Best of luck to Clonmel, anything can happen come February (in an All-Ireland semi) if they get over London in the quarters. But we are destroyed, from Steven O’Brien right down to the masseur.

“To lose it like that is gut-wrenching. I was sitting there in the dressing room next to Dylan Mehigan and Alan Morgan, Willie Morgan on the other side, lads that are 34-35 years of age. Tomás Ó Sé is 37. I took a look around and thought ‘who’s going to go again?’

“The management’s three years is up. I am going to make it public now and say I hope they get another term, because if they’re coming back, I’ll come back. But I am looking around the dressing room wondering is there six or seven of this team going to be gone in 2016?”

Quinlivan, Jack Kennedy, Ian Fahey and Jason Lonergan are part of a Tipp football future with no walls. Clonmel have been providing a good bulk of the under-age talent that has propelled Premier football forward and domestically, they’ve been monpolising silverware — three U21 titles, five minor and a pair of senior football crowns in the last six seasons.

Their time is now and yesterday’s success — the manner of it and the aristocratic opposition — should give manager Charlie McGeever something only experience of such can bestow.

“It’s unacceptable for Tipp to be waiting this long for a senior club title in Munster. Teams win the county and then see everything else as bonus territory.

“Hopefully we are starting to change that with this victory,” former UCC starlet Quinlivan suggested.

After landing two 45s, and a long range free, there was the odd sight of Quinlivan not taking responsibility for a free five minutes from the finish with the scores 0-7 each.

“I would have been regretting not taking the free for the rest of my life,” he said. “Why didn’t I take it? I don’t know. That’s the best answer I can come up with.

“I’d slid a couple off to the left side in the first half, but then I converted two in the second. Ian (Barnes) is a brilliant free-taker and it was on his side, he fancied it. I probably should have taken it but there’s no regrets now.”

Not in Tipp. On the southside of Cork city, it will be viewed as the one that got away, but recriminations should be short if not sweet. This Nemo squad has got the very most out of itself and their heritage has taken them beyond what a similarly talented other club may have achieved. Not that any of that will cut much ice in Trabeg.

“We just blew it,” shrugged the ever-honest Niblock. “We pride ourselves on not giving the ball away when we are ahead. Maybe one or two passes went astray. Even looking at it as a midfielder in the last quarter, the balance of power seemed to be coming with us.

“We were getting kick outs, getting Paul (Kerrigan) and Barry (O’Driscoll) on the ball, fellas with experience. Unluckily for him, Barry hit the post with a shot that would have been three points ahead. Then one long ball… is it a testament to Clonmel’s tenacity, their drive to the very end? That’s sport.”

And that’s history.

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