Clonmel Commercials made history recently as they became the first Tipperary team ever to lift the Munster senior title.
They had four near misses dating back to 1966, but with four inter-county players in the squad it was destined to be their year to progress in the All-Ireland club series in 2015, thwarting the challenge of Tomas O Se’s Nemo Rangers of Cork, who were looking for their 16th Munster crown.
In the final it was Michael Quinlivan’s last minute, 90 seconds into two minutes of injury time to be exact, that booked their sport at Ruislip. As the game moved into its 62nd minute, Nemo were on the verge of a record win after reeling off four unanswered points to lead by 0-9 to 0-7, but Clonmel had time to mount one last attack.
From Aldo Matassa’s delivery, Quinlivan pounced on the ball when Nemo didn’t clear and his low shot evaded the reach of Micheál Martin to nestle in the bottom corner of the net, sparking wild celebrations.
While they may have needed good fortune to seize victory it would be unfair to say they were undeserved champions, battling well with Nemo throughout. In front of 1,175, the first half saw 10 points shared as Nemo’s good start was neutralised, with Jason Lonergan and Kevin Harney impressing for the Tipperary champions.
Things got better for them upon the resumption as Michael Quinlivan scored a 45 and then a longrange free to put them ahead for the first time, but, as is their wont, Nemo refused to wilt.
It took them until the 45th minute to get a second-half score, through Kerrigan, who later almost put them ahead with a goal, but was misfortunate to see his shot richochet off the post and go wide. Nevertheless, they equalised as Luke Connolly scored an impressive free from the left and then Kerrigan put them in front before Jack Horgan added another.
Just as everyone anticipated a Rangers victory Quinlivan had the final say. O Se, who recently launched his autobiography The White Heat (see page 23) at Ruislip GAA Grounds, told the Irish Examiner of his despair at the final whistle.
Recently moving to the Cork side, the ex-Kerry legend had recently been named as one of eight Nemo players on the Reordan’s Cork Team of the Year.
“I was thinking back all week and I have never been sucker-punched like that before. I was stunned, shellshocked. I was stunned for 15 minutes after the game. It was literally the last second and there is no coming back from that. It was freakish what happened.
“Had he belted it, it wouldn’t have gone it. He hit it perfectly.
“We rode our luck throughout the county championship so maybe it balanced itself out, I don’t know.”
CLONMEL COMMERCIALS: J McDonald; J Peters, D Lynch, F Condon; L Moore, K Fahey, K Harney; J Kennedy, A Matassa; P White, J Lonergan, I Fahey; J Harney, M Quinlivan, S Kennedy. SubS: I Barnes for J Harney (40), P Looram for Kennedy (43), D Madigan for White (47), E Fitzgerald for I Fahey (59).
NEMO RANGERS: M Martin; A O’Reilly, C O’Shea, D O’Donovan; K Fulignati, T Ó Sé, A O’Donovan; D Niblock, M Dorgan; C O’Brien, P Kerrigan, D Mehigan; J Masters, B O’Driscoll, C Horgan. SubS: L Connolly for Mehigan (half-time), C Dalton for Horgan (39), P Morgan for Dorgan (45), W Morgan for Masters (50), J Horgan for O’Brien (53).
REFEREE: R Hickey (Clare)