The scoreboard read 1-7 to 0-6 in Newcastle West’s favour and, in truth, it was impossible to see a road back for the home outfit. They struggled in front of goal all afternoon and had been on the back foot as early as the second minute when their Limerick opponents struck for 1-1.
What materialised in the closing five minutes of regulation time and the two additional minutes played by referee by Kevin Murphy bordered on the remarkable. Having managed a meagre six points in the opening 50 minutes, the Tipperary champions kicked a further six coming down the home stretch to secure passage to the Munster semi-final. An Aldo Matassa white flag directly after Kelly’s booming free bore the hallmarks of a consolation score, but was quickly followed by an Ian Barnes free — full-forward Michael Quinlivan drew the foul after expertly taking down Jack Kennedy’s delivery. And when Pádraig Looram split the posts on 58 minutes, the gap stood at one. Game back on.
Having picked themselves off the floor, there was a greater urgency and purpose to Clonmel’s movement, epitomised by the relentless foraging of Kevin Fahey, Michael Quinlivan, Séamus Kennedy, Fergal Condon and Jason Lonergan. Newcastle West, believing they were home and hosed, were now pinned down in their own half, struggling for air.
On 59 minutes, the sides were level for the first time. Condon and Kevin Fahey set-up Séamus Kennedy and the centre-back spun away from the attention of two closing black shirts to kick the equaliser.
Up the field stormed Newcastle West from the ensuing kick-out. Thomas Quilligan played Paul Hannan inside the cover, not a Clonmel jersey in sight. Shot, a rasper at that. Off the post. Back swept Commercials, Looram’s effort from distance bouncing off keeper Jonjo Sheehy and out for a 45.
Step forward Michael Quinlivan, the Tipperary sharpshooter holding his nerve to move his side in front for the first time. The clock read 61 minutes. Séamus Kennedy landed the insurance score in the subsequent action and while Newcastle West engineered a late, late goal chance, Paul Hannan’s claims for a penalty were waved away as Clonmel composure again held.
“I thought the legs were gone and they weren’t going to get there when Kelly put over the long-range free,” admitted McGeever. “The linesman says to me ‘that is the nailing’. I says ‘the coffin isn’t closed yet’. And it wasn’t.”
All told, it was a most impressive resurrection effort Steven Brosnan had Newcastle West on the board just over a minute in and they were firmly in the driving seat when Jamie Lee flicked Cian Sheehan’s delivery to the net. And while the Limerick champions would fail to add to their tally in the ensuing 33 minutes of action, Commercials were unable to capitalise.
Ian Barnes, Quinlivan and Kennedy kicked their entire first-half total, the less than attractive interval scoreline of 1-1 to 0-3 summing up a pretty dire and error-ridden opening half of football.
A Jamie Lee free on 35 minutes brought to an end Newcastle West’s barren spell and though further points from Lee (free), Kelly (0-2, 1 free) and Iain Corbett, allied to some fine patches of defending, kept them in pole position, the visitors were rocked by Clonmel’s late surge — securing as it did a first win for the Tipperary champions in Munster since 2006.
I Barnes (0-4, 0-2 frees); S Kennedy (0-3); M Quinlivan (0-2, 0-1 ’45); P Looram, J Lonergan, A Matassa (0-1 each).
J Lee (1-2, 0-2 frees); S Kelly (0-3, 0-2 frees); I Corbett, S Brosnan (0-1 each).
J McDonald; F Condon, D Lynch, J Peters; D Madigan, K Fahey, L Moore; S Kennedy, A Matassa; P White, I Fahey, J Lonergan; K Harney, M Quinlivan, I Barnes.
J Kennedy for White (34), P Looram for I Fahey (52), I Fahey for Matassa (61).
J Sheehy; M O’Keeffe, B O’Sullivan, S Browne; M O’Leary, S Nix, P Hannan; C Sheehan, I Corbett; S Brosnan, S Kelly, T Quilligan; J Kelly, M McMahon, J Lee.
S McAuliffe for Brosnan (27 mins), B O’Doherty for Sheehan (33), G Reidy for Lee (58)
K Murphy (Cork).