The underdogs tag didn’t deter Borris-Ileigh last weekend. In fact, they revelled in it and Seamus Kennedy is hoping Clonmel Commercials can embrace being unfancied as much as his Tipperary team-mates Brendan Maher and Dan McCormack.
Few are expecting Commercials to catch Nemo Rangers as they did at this stage four years ago but Kennedy doesn’t mind. He knows the lengths the Tipperary champions will have to go to match Borris-Ileigh’s feat.
“I just think Borris showed exactly the way to approach a game. We are going to be underdogs on Sunday and they were underdogs last Sunday and the way they applied themselves was so good to see.
“The work-rate and bodies on the line was unbelievable and if we can bring that attitude and approach to Sunday we will definitely die with our boots on and hopefully get us over the line.”
Nemo have never forgotten what happened in Mallow on November 29, 2015, nor have Clonmel when it is considered their greatest day.
“(It was) absolutely joy, really,” recalls Kennedy. “It looked like that game was gone from us and a bit of magic from Michael (Quinlivan) gave us the best day the club has ever had. It was our first Munster club. We had been in a lot of finals so to finally get over the line was an unbelievable breakthrough. And to see the scenes after, it just hit home I suppose what had actually happened.
“We were young at the time and in a lot of games we threw a lot of caution to the wind and stayed going. And when you have a player of the calibre of Michael at the edge of the square at times it’s only half a chance — or even less — he needs.
“That’s what that goal was, a moment of brilliance. We didn’t give up and people always remember the goal, but over the full hour of that game we played an awful lot of the football, and probably didn’t take some of the chances we should have and Nemo reined us in and just got ahead. But over the full hour the game could have gone either way.”
Nemo may seem to have all the incentive heading to Fraher Field but Kennedy would dearly love another All-Ireland semi-final shot considering how Ballyboden beat them in February 2016 when the winning score was disputed for over-carrying.
“Yeah, Darragh Nelson, I don’t think I’ll ever forget his name,” says Kennedy of the winning scorer. “To be honest, it is a game I have never watched back and I don’t think I ever will.”
Having former county minor hero Colman Kennedy — brother of Jack and Conal and son of ex-Tipperary hurler John but no relation of Seamus — back from the US has given the forward line a boost.
But it’s the maturity of the group that Kennedy believes now stands to them most. “I think the test we got in Miltown-Malbay the last day was probably a true reflection of that. We felt going down there that we knew it was going to be a really tough game, which it was, but we felt that we’ve been here before, we’ve had a tough game against Loughmore (-Castleiney), so we’ve been here before and this is a game we can win.
“We’d been looking at Nemo and Dr Crokes and the level they’d been operating at and you’re kind of saying, ‘This is the level we want to get to’ because we feel we have a group of players in Clonmel at the minute that can compete at that level. I suppose it’s coming from the players really, driving it, that we want to be competing in Munster club finals and what not.” Since the All-Ireland win over Kilkenny, it’s been predominantly football for Kennedy and he has found the experience refreshing as well as helping to keep him ticking over ahead of rejoining Liam Sheedy’s set-up.
“I have the football to freshen things up. I haven’t played for a long time and to be back down in the field training with the group of players we have, lads that are focused and driven, and things are really, really good, it just makes it easy and it’s fresh.”
The extended run has kept Tipp’s All-Ireland winner away from small ball duty for the time being.
“Please God, I’m not going to be going back hurling next week. But if that’s the case, I suppose I haven’t picked up a hurley in a few weeks so it will be something fresh and new again for me.”