It was the same type of encore second-half performance, just with a greater difference on the scoreboard – and less rain.
This wasn’t just about St Brendan’s 21st Corn Uí Mhuirí title. After all, that fact was set in stone within minutes of the throw-in.
This was about the show-stopping skills and, in particular, the kick-passing that expertly picked apart a previously stingy Clonmel defence.
Winning manager Garry McGrath called it the “ultimate all-round performance”. None of the 902 spectators would disagree with that assessment.
“I felt we were in control all throughout the game,” explained McGrath. “You dream that fellows will turn up, give a good account of themselves and play that style of football in a final.
“Did I see it coming? I probably did because of the way we’ve been training the last few weeks, with the way we’ve been moving the ball. Our game is really to move the ball as quickly as we can into our full-forward line. We do a lot of work on scoring goals and it paid off. The opportunities came and the lads took them.”
That talk of moving the ball at speed with kick-passing is no lip-service.
What the Sem produced on Saturday could be hung in an art gallery.
Accuracy and placement were consistently on point. From their midfield powerhouse, both centre- fielders and wing players were time and again able to quickly detect the runs of the industrious inside line and deliver.
Over and over, those full-forwards were out in-front, cleanly winning the ball and switching it into space, often with shorter kicks that arrived with an RSVP invitation to take-on an off-balance marker.
The scoring reply totalled 4-18 from play alone.
“Every training session we’re kicking the ball,” revealed McGrath. “All day long, that’s all we do. We feel we’ve lovely, skilfull footballers and one of their strengths is their kick-passing and the quality of their kick-passing, so that’s what we do. We just concentrate on kick-passing the whole time.”
Indeed the first goal of the game, after 90 seconds, was a result of a delicious kick pass over the top of the Clonmel rearguard. Dara Moynihan served up the chance from out the field and Evan Cronin gobbled it up after a cool sidestep around a recovering defender.
45 seconds later the Killarney students had a second goal. This one owed more to direct running from the kick-out and good support lines, with David Clifford playing in Michael Casey to stab the ball to the net.
Clonmel stabilised on the scoreboard with points from Michael Barlow, who also threatened a goal.
However St Brendan’s kicked on in the second-quarter, with Clifford supplying the ammunition for scores by both early goalscorers before adding 1-2 of his own between the 26th and 28th minutes – the goal a tap-in after Aidan Tobin saved from Cronin. At half-time they led by 3-10 to 0-6, with every scoring contribution coming from play.
Opposition manager Tony Gleeson could only applaud such an “exceptional team”.
He illustrated that fact with an observation: “If you take the second-half, for example, they scored eight points within the first 20 minutes and they didn’t miss one free or scoring chance. Some of them were from 35 or 40 yards, another two were exceptional frees. That takes a lot of coaching and a lot of time, and their fitness levels were phenomenal.”
Those eight points were evenly spread between Clifford, Cronin, David Shaw and Lee O’Donoghue, while Adam O’Shea later added his own brace with his first two touches. Fellow substitutes Donnchadh O’Sullivan (who won and converted a 58th-minute penalty) and William Courtney (with the final kick) embellished the scoreline with green flags either side of Clonmel’s only second-half score, from Dara Ryan.
“It’s a stepping stone for us,” admitted Gleeson. “Five years ago we came out of ‘B’ football and we’re now competing at the very top level of ‘A’ football. We have to be playing at this level. You might take some beatings like today, but the main thing is that you learn from these things, you come back and you come back better. I’ve no doubt that the day will come when we will turn this around and we will win it.”
D Clifford (1-5, two frees); E Cronin (1-3); M Casey (1-2); D Shaw (0-5); D O’Sullivan (pen), W Courtney (1-0 each); L O’Donoghue (1 45), A O’Shea (0-2 each); D Moynihan, D Naughton (0-1 each).
Michael Barlow (0-3, 1 free); M O’Reilly (0-2 frees); E Hoctor, D Ryan (0-1 each).
D Carroll (Spa); M Potts (Dr Crokes), C O’Donoghue (Glenflesk), C Gammell (Legion); D Naughton (Dr Crokes), D O’Brien (Glenflesk), N Donohue (Firies); L O’Donoghue (Glenflesk), B Courtney (Dr Crokes); D Moynihan (Spa), D Clifford (Fossa), P McCarthy (Legion); E Cronin (Spa), D Shaw, M Casey (both Dr Crokes).
D Spillane (Spa) for Donohue, D O’Sullivan (Firies) for Casey (both 40), W Courtney (Firies) for McCarthy (49), A O’Shea (Dr Crokes) for B Courtney (50), F Murphy (Legion) for Shaw (57), M O’Shea (Dr Crokes) for Gammell (58).
A Tobin; Matt Barlow (both Clonmel Commercials), S Ryan, J Mulcahy (both The Nire, Waterford); G Whelan (Ardfinnan), K Peters, G Ryan (both Clonmel Commercials); M Kehoe (Kilsheelan-Kilcash), E Hoctor (Clonmel Commercials); M Hogan (Ardfinnan), C Boland (Clonmel Commercials), D Ryan (Moyle Rovers); Michael Barlow (Ardfinnan), S O’Meara (The Nire, Waterford), M O’Reilly (Clonmel Commercials).
S Martin (Kilsheelan-Kilcash) for Ryan (black, 26), A Peters (Clonmel Commercials) for Hoctor (ht), L Cooney (The Nire, Waterford) for Matt Barlow (46), R Kennedy (Moyle Rovers) for O’Meara (55).
K Murphy (Cork).