Whereas they handed six- and four-point leads to Moyle Rovers and Newcastle West in the Tipperary decider and Munster quarter-final, respectively, Charlie McGeever’s men were in no mood to spend another hour inside the whitewash chasing their opponents. No, on this occasion, they forced Miltown-Malbay to do the chasing.
Electing to play into the teeth of a strong breeze in the opening period, Clonmel had their foot to the floor from the off and, indeed, by the time they eased off on the throttle some 26 minutes later, the scoreline read 0-8 to 0-0 in their favour.
Fergal Condon and Kevin Harney, who despite wearing number 13 on his back set up shop in his own half of the field, were tasked with keeping tight leashes on Clare senior Eoin Cleary and county final man-of-the-match Kevin Keavey. Having shipped 1-1 inside the opening two minutes against Newcastle West, they were keen to stamp out the Miltown-Malbay dangermen as early as possible; Keavey was called ashore on the half-hour mark, while Cleary found the target only once, that his side’s opening score after 27 minutes.
At midfield, McGeever opted to deploy his two main talents, Séamus Kennedy and Michael Quinlivan. The pair acted as an almost impenetrable wall in the opening half, fielding kick-out after kick-out and, in the process, starving the St Joseph’s front six of primary possession.
Eoin Curtin and Gordon Kelly both wasted decent scoring chances for the visitors in the opening five minutes and, as would be the case for the hour, there was to be no such shortcomings at the other end. An Ian Barnes free had the home outfit off the mark, with Quinlivan swinging over the next two; both points born out of turnovers deep in the Miltown-Malbay defence.
Let down by countless handling errors and an inability to win their own kick-outs, the Clare champions forayed sporadically into the Clonmel half. And on the rare occasion they plugged a gap, the danger was quickly sealed off by excellent Clonmel sweeper Jamie Peters.
Defined by their composure on the ball and quick transitioning from defence to attack, Jason Lonergan (0-2), Quinlivan and Séamus and Jack Kennedy all nailed the target to put eight between the sides; the scoreboard accurately reflecting the gulf in class between the teams.
Cleary eventually had Miltown-Malbay on the board, but several more efforts were either dropped short or kicked wide before the break as Michael Neylon’s side cried out for a thimble of the confidence which flowed through their opponents.
Miltown-Malbay, to be fair, did pile on the pressure at the change of ends. The end product, however, time and time again did scant justice to the build-up. Seanie Malone’s kick was all they had to show for eight minutes of dominance and the gap was back to seven (0-9 to 0-2) when Jack Kennedy nailed his second.
On 41 minutes, it was game over. The ensuing kick-out from Kennedy’s point was taken down by a green-and-gold shirt on the 45, possession was moved to Lonergan whose probing delivery was punched to the net by Quinlivan.
Thereafter, the contest died a slow death. Kieran Malone kicked only Miltown’s third point on 55 minutes, with Pádraig White (0-2), Ian Fahey (45) and Lonergan closing out an emphatic Commercials victory.
This 13-point statement of intent ends a 14-year wait for Tipperary representation in the Munster final, Fethard lost to Nemo Rangers back in 2001, and also bridges a 21-year gap to Clonmel’s last provincial final showing. Most of the current crop were mere toddlers when Castlehaven handed down a heavy beating in the winter of ’94. Cork opposition again stand in their path in Nemo, but this new breed exhume that air of confidence Tipperary football teams long craved.
M Quinlivan (1-3, 0-1 free); J Longeran (0-3); P White (0-1 free), J Kennedy (0-2 each); I Fahey (0-1 ’45), I Barnes (0-1 free), S Kennedy (0-1 each).
E Cleary, K Malone, S Malone (0-1 each).
J McDonald; J Peters, D Lynch, F Condon; L Moore, K Fahey, K Harney; S Kennedy, M Quinlivan; A Matassa, J Lonergan, I Fahey; I Barnes, J Kennedy, P White.
Subs: P Looram for J Kennedy (35), D Madigan for Quinlivan (45, bc), J Harney for Barnes (48), E Fitzgerald for Matassa (54), S Taylor for Peters (57), C McGeever for Condon (58)
S O’Brien; E O’Brien, S Malone, Gordon Kelly; E O’Gorman, G Curtin, D Lafferty; J Meade, D McDonagh; K Keavey, K Malone, J Curtin; E Cleary, E Curtin, B Curtin.
Subs: C Hehir for Lafferty (10 mins, inj), C Murray for Keavey (30), Graham Kelly for Meade (HT), S Curtin for G Curtin (51), D Talty for E Cleary (55),
C Lane (Cork).