Wednesday 7 December 2016

Quinlivan drives Clonmel to history

Last-gasp goal sees Commercials become first Tipperary team to claim Munster glory

Published 30/11/2015 | 02:30

Clonmel Commercials players celebrate after defeating Nemo Rangers in the Munster final
Clonmel Commercials players celebrate after defeating Nemo Rangers in the Munster final
Michael Quinlivan celebrates after scoring the winning goal right at the death
Clonmel’s Fergal Conday

All around him, wild celebrations are kicking off.

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There's back-slaps to rattle his teeth and bear-hugs that drive the wind from him but Michael Quinlivan, eyes glazed over, is in a world of his own. Exhaustion and elation have him now.

It's only a few minutes since it looked done.

Nemo had called on their thoroughbreds and Paul Kerrigan booted the Cork champions in front with less than two minutes to play - the first time they had led in the half. And as the clock rolled into injury-time, William Morgan teamed up with Jack Horgan to put them two clear.

From there, it seemed only the gods could intervene.

One hopeful ball later and Quinlivan gathered possession after the Nemo defence failed to deal with the danger. Quinlivan let rip with a stunning low drop-kick to the far corner and Mallow erupted. In one moment, Quinlivan and Clonmel Commercials wrote themselves into history.

"It's never done with us," Quinlivan said afterwards.

It was hard to argue. Wasn't it a Commercials man, Colman Kennedy, currently in the US on a soccer scholarship, who produced the breathtaking winning goal in the 2011 All-Ireland minor final? Clonmel boasted seven of that team yesterday.

Situations

"We have come back from some very sticky situations this year, but jesus, when Nemo Rangers are knocking the ball about like Barcelona in the last couple of minutes you are starting to regret things you've done in the match," Quinlivan continued.

"And the ball just drops and. . . I can't even put into words what it means.

"It was just about getting it down and getting it on the ground because (Nemo goalkeeper) Micheal Martin is a super shot-stopper. I knew the only way to get it past him was put it low and thankfully it ends up in the corner.

"On another day it would have skated wide, we'll take this one."

Quinlivan grabbed the headlines but it was hardly a one-man show. At various stages, there were different heroes.

Jamie Peters boxed a goalbound Kerrigan effort over the bar after just 90 seconds. Jack and Seamus Kennedy and Aldo Matassa and others had their moments. Throughout the game, Clonmel found the right players in the big moments to ensure they wouldn't be undone.

At half-time, the teams were tied at 0-5 each. And though Clonmel didn't lead at any stage in the opening 30 minutes, Nemo's lead was never allowed to extend beyond a single point.

Clonmel were a little more wasteful than their opponents in that period. They landed five wides, four of which came from the boot from Quinlivan from right on the edge of his range. Nemo hit just two wides but found it hard to break Clonmel down.

Clonmel's game-plan was obvious. Possession was king and the ball was recycled rather than taking a hopeful punt at goal.

When referee Rory Hickey took the teams in at the break, it was anyone's game. It was just a matter of whether Commercials could stick with their more experienced counterparts in the home stretch.

The second half was only a couple of minutes old when Quinlivan boomed over another '45' to hand his side the lead for the first time in the game. At the other end, Luke Moore pulled off a vital interception to deny Nemo a goal chance.

Quinlivan was involved in what might have been a hugely controversial moment. The full-forward had the presence of mind to chip-lift the ball to himself and head for goal.

Just as he was pulling the trigger, his legs seemed to be taken from him by one of the chasing Nemo defenders. Hickey waved play on and Clonmel were incensed.

Quinlivan extended the lead to two points before Kerrigan replied with a point, the Corkmen's first score in a 20 minute period either side of half-time.

And if Quinlivan was the man for Clonmel, Kerrigan was playing a captain's part for Nemo. He saw his goalbound effort rebound off the butt of the post but a superb Luke Connolly free brought the side level moving into the last ten.

From there, Ian Barnes missed a kickable free that Quinlivan left down as it suited Barnes' left foot better. That looked to have been their last chance as Nemo moved two points clear.

There was time only for Quinlivan to write his name in the history books. Nemo got time to kick the ball out but they already needed the smelling salts. Clonmel Commercials became the first Tipperary team to win the Munster club SFC title.

Afterwards, their manager Charlie McGeever bounded up the steps of the stand in Mallow two at a time.

He's been a busy man, having guided the Tipp minors to an All-Ireland final appearance earlier this year. In a previous life, he rubbed shoulders with Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa as a youngster on the books of Spurs. But this felt special.

"They were still in it (at the end) because the legs were there," he said.

"These guys have been at it since January. I said in the dressing-room that the one thing that won't let us down is the commitment and the legs.

Belief

"We have working hard since January last year, you can't make up for that in November and December. They are a young group, so the only thing I thought stopping them was belief and experience.

"The belief has been there, as you have seen, and that experience today and other days will move us forward please god.

"Isn't it the place to be at the end of November and early December to be still playing football?," he smiled. "That's what it is all about.

"That group is unbelievable. Does it surprise me? No it doesn't. Could you say it was over? No you could not because that is what we have done all year. Today we lacked that experience in the end, we showed that a little bit in the last ten minutes.

"But the spirit of that team - they never give up."

SCORERS - Clonmel Commercials: M Quinlivan 1-3 (0-2 '45s', 0-1f), A Matassa, K Harney, J Kennedy, J Lonergan 0-1 each. Nemo Rangers: P Kerrigan 0-3, J Masters (1f) 0-2, L Connolly (f), J Horgan, D O'Donovan, D Niblock 0-1 each.

Clonmel Commercials - J McDonald; F Condon, D Lynch, J Peters; 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 Looran for J Kennedy (43), D Madigan for White (47), E Fitzgerald for I Fahey (59).

Nemo Rangers - MA Martin; A O'Reilly, C O'Shea, D O'Donovan; K Fulignati, T O Se, 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 (h-t), C Dalton for Horgan (39), P Morgan for Dorgan (45), W Morgan for Masters (50), J Horgan for O'Brien (52).

Ref - R Hickey (Clare)

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