He has been hugely influential for the Castletroy club at left corner forward this year, and it was his goal from a penalty in the 50th minute which proved the decisive score in this AIB Munster Club SFC semi-final at the Gaelic Grounds yesterday.
It came at a stage in the game when the Tipperary champions were clinging to a one point lead after earlier surrendering a four point advantage, and it gave the home side the lead which they subsequently never lost.
“Gaelic football was always my first love. Even winning the League Cup with Limerick last year cannot compare with what we achieved today.
“We are in the Munster club final for the first time in our history, and that’s very special for us all”, said a clearly overjoyed JP as he was swamped by his team-mates all offering their congratulations..
However it was a result that so easily could have gone against them. Monaleen took control from the throw-in, but kicked a litany of wides which many felt would come back to haunt them, particularly after Clonmel had raced into a 1-2 to 0-1 lead.
Earlier Muiris Gavin who was to have a huge influence for his side in the second half, missed a sitter of a goal after Clonmel backs Kevin Kelly and Tommy Galvin completely misjudged the hope of the ball, but credit to Philly Ryan in goal, he tipped Gavin’s effort on to the crossbar before it was eventually cleared
In stark contrast to Monaleen, Clonmel wasted little from limited possession, and after the sides were level they showed their potential in attack with an opportunist goal in the 15th minute from Ian Cleary after Paudie O’Keeffe’s effort came back off the crossbar to him.
Monaleen were struggling big time at midfield where Eamon Hanrahan and Mark Cummins were well on top, but the switch of Alan Kitson from centre forward succeeded in breaking Clonmel’s stranglehold, and with a general tightening up in defence, the Limerick champions began to get on top.
Muiris Gavin landed an excellent point in the 24th minute, his side’s first for 14 minutes, and with corner backs Darren Burke and David McCauley - he won the man of the match award for his efforts - totally on top, Monaleen finished the half in style with three points in a row to trail 1-3 to 0-5 at half time. Urged on by the spectators in the 1,100 attendance, Muiris Gavin eased his side in front for the first time in the 40th minute with a point, but after Ian Barnes levelled it for a third time nine minutes later, Clonmel lost a glorious chance of a goal that may well have won them the game.
For once Monaleen’s short passing game in defence broke down and the ball was swept into the unmarked Eamon Hanrahan, but with only the ‘keeper to beat, the towering midfielder blazed wide, and with it went his side’s last chance of a place in this year’s final.
From the kick out Monaleen swept down field with a great passing movement, and when Eoin Keating’s perfect pass came to David McCauley, he was grounded in the square.
Up stepped JP Stokes, and showing marvellous composure, left Philly ryan rooted to his line as the ball rocketed into the roof of his net. It was all Monaleen from there to the finish and Muiris Gavin showed his class with three glorious points from long range frees, to set up an history first final for his club against Nemo Rangers in Killarney in a fortnight’s time. Scores - Monaleen: M. Gavin 0-6 (0-5 frees); JP Stokes 1-0 (pen.); C. O’Boyle 0-2; F. Melody, E. Keating 0-1 each. Clonmel: I. Cleary 1-0; I. Barnes 0-2 (frees); Fergal O’Callaghan, E. Hanrahan, K. Dempsey 0-1 each.
MONALEEN: B. Berkery; D. Burke, J. Comican, D. McCauley; F. Melody, J. Marsh, F. Nash; B. Geary, M. Cummins; C. O’Boyle, A. Kitson, J. O’Brien; M. Gavin, E. Keating, JP Stokes; Subs. J. Coneely for O’Brien; D. McInerney for Marsh; F. Connolly.
CLONMEL: P. Ryan; K. Kelly, T. Galvin, F. Condon; Fergus O’Callaghan, B. Walsh, S. O’Loughlin; E. Hanrahan, Fergal O’Callaghan; S. Landers, C. McGrath, P. O’Keeffe; I. Barnes, K. Dempsey, I. Cleary. Subs. J. Harney for Landers; L. Phelan for McGrath; J. Power for Dempsey.
Referee, J. Geaney (Cork).