They had witnessed Commercials make further history by extending their season into 2016 and wanted to let the players and management know their appreciation by forming a guard of honour between the Ruislip pitch and dressing rooms.
“Job done,” shouted Commericals manager Charlie McGeever as he approached the sea of green and yellow. It drew a hearty cheer that knocked the nearby television presenter out of his stride.
There were no such issues for Clonmel, who were asked different questions in the English capital but still possessed the answers. They lost key duo Aldo Atassa and Michael Quinlivan to black cards late in the first half and had their lead cut to two points, but Pádraig Looram found the top corner within 15 seconds of the restart and normal service was resumed.
“Today was about the younger lads who stood up,” said McGeever. “No goals conceded and it was a slippery slope for us. They took us as a Tipperary team coming over here but I think the scoreline reflects the performance.
“Today was about a team, not any one individual. It wasn’t the Michael Quinlivan or Seamus Kennedy show. It was the Commercials show and I’m delighted with that.”
Given Tir Chonaill Gaels’ strong Donegal links, McGeever knew the challenge facing his side but he couldn’t have asked for a better start. Tir Chonaill had a strong wind on their backs in the first half but employed an ultra-defensive outlook as they tried to negate Clonmel’s speedy forwards and target man Quinlivan.
It played into the visitors’ hands as they dominated possession, content to pass the ball laterally until they spotted an opening. Quinlivan fisted Matassa’s dropping shot over the bar and rattled the post minutes later. The only surprise by the midway point of the first half was that Clonmel’s lead only stood at three points.
On 23 minutes Quinlivan dropped deep to pick up possession and then charged towards goal. Gaels defenders couldn’t get close to the full-forward as he fed Ian Fahey, who nonchalantly finished past Declan Traynor.
Matassa was harshly black-carded for a foul on Mark Gottsche, who was outstanding for Tir Chonaill, but there was less controversy about Quinlivan’s departure after he tripped the goal-bound Cathal Magee. Two key players down in the space of five minutes, and three unanswered points from the west Londoners made it 1-5 to 0-6 at the change of ends.
Clonmel won the throw-in and raced upfield, where substitute Looram fired a shot across Declan Traynor and into the top corner.
Adam Askin was sent off moments later when he added a black card to the yellow received in the first period and Barney Breen’s team-talk was up in smoke after four second-half minutes.
“We lost two county men to two black cards, two of our top men, and we didn’t struggle,” said McGeever. “We still only conceded nine points.
“We allowed them a little bit too much carrying at times. When we scored the first goal and went five points up against the wind, we sat back for six or seven minutes and that cost us. That’s the sort of young fellas they are; you’re going to have highs and lows and there was a period where we lacked concentration.”
Seamus Kennedy ran the show for Clonmel and deserved picked up the man of the match award. He may have had No 6 on his back but he popped up all over the pitch.
McGeever is looking forward to “enjoying the Christmas dinner” but thoughts have already turned to their semi-final date with Ballyboden in two months’ time .
“We’ve a bit of work done on them already but there’s more to do,” he said. “We can rest up and hopefully improve. We have to. All we want is a test to know how good we are. If we get beaten by Ballyboden so be it. We want to see how far we’ve come because that’s not the team that started last year. We’re more rounded.”
I Fahey 1-1, P White (2f), J Lonergan (1f) 0-3 each, P Looram 1-0, M Quinlivan, I Barnes, S Kennedy, J Kennedy, N Kelly 0-1 each.
S Friel (2f), A Hanlon (1f), L Gavaghan 0-2 each, M McCoy, C Magee, M Gottsche (’45) 0-1 each.
J McDonald; F Condon, D Lynch, J Peters; I Barnes, S Kennedy, K Fahey; J Kennedy, A Matassa; L Moore, I Fahey, J Lonergan; K Harney, M Quinlivan, P White.
P Looram for Matassa (25, black card), N Kelly for Quinlivan (30, black card), E Fitzgerald for Barnes (44), D Madigan for Looram (50), R Peters for Fahey (56).
D Traynor; P Butler, R Breen, B Atarnsey; G Magee, E McConville, M McCoy; M Gottsche, L Gavaghan; A Askin, C Magee, N Boyle; A McDermott, S Friel, A Hanlon.
B Collins for McAtarnsey (20), B Ross for G Magee (44), B Duddy for Hanlon (47), J McGrath for Breen (57, black card).
P Neilan (Roscommon)