Clonmel Commercials’ football family help Ian Fahey in time of need

When the final whistle confirmed victory for Clonmel Commercials in October’s Tipperary senior football final, Ian Fahey couldn’t hold the emotion in any longer.
Clonmel Commercials’ football family help Ian Fahey in time of need

Jubilant Commercials fans invaded the Semple Stadium pitch to pay tribute to their heroes but one familiar face was missing.

Less than two months earlier, Ian’s mother Caroline passed away peacefully at St James’ Hospital in Dublin.

She had battled cancer before succumbing to a brain haemorrhage, and Ian considered taking a year out as he struggled with his grief.

He still finds her loss tough to cope with on a daily basis but football has helped.

The 21-year-old confided in club and county colleague Michael Quinlivan, who told him to take his time coming back.

And in early October, he did, ironically coming on to replace Quinlivan, who was black-carded, six minutes before half-time in the Tipperary SFC quarter-final against Loughmore-Castleiney.

Fahey played brilliantly in Cashel, scoring a goal and having a major impact as Commercials took control in the second half to end Loughmore’s reign as champions.

A few weeks later, they were back on top of the Tipperary tree themselves, having seen off local rivals Moyle Rovers in the final.

Caroline would have loved Mallow last November, too. The day when Commercials became the first Tipperary team to win a Munster senior club football title. It was another afternoon when Fahey knew that he’d made the right call by not ditching football.

“For a while I was thinking of taking a year out,” he confirms. “But the best thing that happened me was to go back. It takes your mind off things, especially with the club, being with the lads the whole time.

“They’d cheer you. I have my ups and downs but I take each day as it comes. She was at every match, she was the biggest supporter I had.”

Commercials did what they could to ease the Fahey family’s pain. Club members were stewards at Caroline’s funeral and provided a guard of honour. They did whatever they could.

Naturally, for a while, football was the furthest thing from Fahey’s mind.

“I told a few lads,” he says. “To be fair, Michael Quinlivan was brilliant, he was there any time I wanted anything. I could pick up the phone any time I needed to. He just said take my time coming back.”

It wasn’t long after Tipperary beat Cork in the Munster U21 final when Larry Fahey, his sons Ian and Luke, and daughter Tara received the news that Caroline was ill.

“She was rushed to hospital as was in intensive care for a few days. She got out of intensive care and they were saying she was fighting well and we were getting positive news the whole time.

“That morning, it was a shock getting the news. We used to go up there every days, seven days a week there was someone up there.” Ever since, life’s been about “trying to keep the best side out” for Ian and his family.

He’s back in college too, on a 10-week plumbing course at Waterford IT, and that helps “not sitting around at home thinking about stuff”. The Commercials voyage provided a welcome distraction, too, and has captivated the town.

“At the start of the year, I wouldn’t have thought we’d get there but I fancied us against Nemo in the (Munster) final,” Ian says.

“We hadn’t seen much of them but we did some video analysis with (Tipp U21 manager and senior selector) Tommy Toomey.

“Tommy’s brilliant.” All season long, Commercials had made a habit of digging themselves out of tricky situations.

They came from six points down against Moyle Rovers, overturned a four-point deficit with just six minutes left against Newcastlewest in the Munster quarter-final and of course, there was that famous late goal from Quinlivan to seal victory over Nemo.

“They used to say a few years ago that, as a town team, if we got to the last 10 minutes a point down or a point ahead, we’d bottle it,” Fahey says. We proved different this year.”

Winning Munster opened the door to a potential date at Croke Park on St Patrick’s Day but formidable opposition stand in the way in Portlaoise this evening.

“I saw the Leinster semi-final and final,” Fahey adds. “Ballyboden have some big names and are very physical.”

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