Commercials Pour Out The Fine Wine
On Saturday night in Pairc Ui Chaoimh, Clonmel Commercials showed a watching nation that Gaelic football is still a game of grace and beauty. From the second the ball was thrown in until referee Brendan Griffin signalled full stop, this was a Mary Poppins like performance…practically perfect in ever way.
Sports journalists around the province have a great bit of writing and explaining to do. All week they had made out that Commercials faced the same impossible task as Sisyphus, the King in Greek mythology who was condemned to an eternity of rolling a boulder up a hill only to watch it roll back down when it reached the summit. I just couldn’t understand their thinking. To condemn this Commercials team is as fool hardy as casting aspersions on the Gospels of Matthew.
As early as the 7th minute it was clear that Commercials weren’t in the mood to lie down and have their belly tickled by raging hot favourites Nemo. James Morris won a ball in the corner back position and 20 seconds later Sean O’Connor is burying it to the front of the Nemo net. By the time Colman Kennedy gave the ball to O’Connor to finish, it seemed as if every Commercials player had got their hands on the ball during that move.
The next ten minutes were all action and full of incident. Luke Connolly saw his goal bound effort kept out by Michael O’Rielly while Commercials will feel they left a goal behind themselves, when they over-complicated a 3 on 2 situation to allow Nemo keeper, Michael Martin, to charge down Jason Lonergan’s effort.
Then in the 18th minute Colman Kennedy came up with a moment of sublime quality after he raced onto a pass from Lonergan. Michael Martin thought he had all his angles covered when Colman collected the ball. He needn’t be hard on himself. He did everything right and only a player of Kennedy’s ability couldn’t fine the top corner of the net from that angle. We will watch a lot of football matches before we see a better finish than this.
Martin later produced a wonderful save from a Padraic Looram pile driver, going full length to tip the ball over the bar to ensure his side went for the half time Jaffa Cakes just 2.04 to 0.06. It could have been so much worse for Nemo.
Nemo Rangers aren’t 17 times Munster Champions by accident and they started the second half with renewed purpose with two early points from Connolly frees. Then came the moment that could have changed the course of this game. Connolly found Luke Horgan with a beautiful pass but the half time substitutes weak effort was well saved by Michael O’Reilly. Had that effort gone in Nemo would have went ahead but it wouldn’t have fairly reflected the general play.
The Commercials response was impressive. They drew the drawbridge up and laid siege to the Nemo goal. What followed was 20 minutes of scintillating football. Connall Keenndy and two Lonergan points settled the nerves before Colman Kennedy fired over a beauty with the outside of his left wand.
The stage was now set for Commercials to moonwalk to the finish line eventually running out 2:15 to 1:11 winners with Jason Lonergan scoring an absolute ridiculously good point in injury time, tapping the ball over a defenders head before pointing from 40 yards.
The margin of victory was a fair reflection on the game but for all the flair they showed on Saturday night, this victory was built first and foremost on hard work. The efforts and ground covered by Conall Kennedy, Ross Peters and Cathal Deeley made Tom Crean’s journey through Antarctica seem like a gentle stroll in the park.
But it was performance of Jason Lonergan that had most of the country talking. His six points (each one better than the one that preceded it) and an assist for Colman Kennedy’s goal ensured he earned the Man of The Match award. I feel that award isn’t enough. I have watched him play all year and he is Man of The Season.
Sean O’Connor, the William Tell of Clonmel, would finish the game with 1:04 behind his name showing once again he is a master of playing the full forward position.
James Morris and Tadhg Condon are in their first season with Commercials seniors. They must think they will never see a poor day in the green and gold. For them Pairc UI Chaoimh on Saturday evening must have felt like the headquarters of The Promised Land. Both performance magnificently with Condon scoring the last point of the game.
Michael O’Reilly kept his goal and his forecourt nice and tidy. He made two saves from efforts by Luke Connolly and Luke Horgan at a vital stages in the game. In the second half he pulled a ball down from a low flying cloud that lesser keepers would have been happy to let sail over the bar.
It would not surprise him if I heard that when Seamus Kennedy went to buy a pint in Eldon’s on Saturday night, he put his hand in his pocket and Luke Connolly fell out. Connolly is a fabulous player but he wasn’t give so much of an inch to perform his magic on Saturday. Subduing him was the key to Commercials victory.
I remain convinced that Jack Kennedy could find Shergar with a foot pass. Over the past few years he has developed into the complete midfielder. Of course his job is made that bit easier by the quality of the half back in behind him. Padraic Looram, Kevin Fahey and Jamie Peters are the back bone of this team. All three were magnificent and when I say the Kevin Fahey was the best that is high praise indeed.
Finally you have Michael Quinlivan. When the game was in the melting pot early in the second half, Quinlivan was always able to find a clearing in the midfield jungle. He dominated the skies with several soaring catches and in full flow he doesn’t so much run on the ground as float over it as if on a magic carpet.
The quality of the subs introduced, Peter McGarry, Aldo Matassa, Ciaran Cannon, Cian Smith and Shane Power will ensure that the starting 15 won’t rest on their laurels over the rest of this campaign.
If Commercials need to keep their feet on the ground over the next few weeks, they need only look at Nemo who put in an impressive in the Cork county final. For whatever reason, they didn’t hit those heights on Saturday night. Putting in impressive back to back performances is not easy and hard work has to be the starting point the next day against Newcastle West.