Ballyboden have a reputation for recovering from bleak situations and theirs was a dismal one with ordinary time almost complete in Portlaoise yesterday evening.
Clonmel, making a mockery of the odds labelling them a far-fetched bet for a place in the All-Ireland club final, were spirited and full of fire and leading by three points in a match where scores were scarce and there wasn't the merest sniff of a goal. To harden the task Declan O'Mahoney had himself sent off, deservedly, on a red card with seven minutes left, for a high challenge on Jason Lonegan. A famous Clonmel victory to match their Munster final win over Nemo Rangers looked set to be feted in south Tipperary.
And then it all changed. 'Boden never stopped trying but they were running out of time and when Conal Keaney landed a 20-metre free from the hand short, it seemed that this was destined to be one of those horror stories they would be reciting to their grandchildren.
Andrew Kerin, who finished with seven points, kicked his second from play to raise their hopes and Colm Basquel scored in injury time. Three added minutes were almost up when Darragh Nelson strode up the field and landed a magnificent point to ear-splitting roars from his followers. With extra-time looming, a deflated Clonmel must have known they were goosed.
They unravelled in the extra-time periods, with worse to follow when Michael Quinlivan, their best forward and hero against Nemo, was dismissed on a black card after a couple of minutes. 'Boden players were finding a new energy in their legs, grateful for the second chance and restored to the full complement. They scored two points in the first period, three in the second, with Clonmel, totally spent, drawing a blank.
It has been a wonderful year for Tipp's first provincial club football champions but this one will hurt because they had the winning of it.
Kerin was 'Boden's top scorer and calmest finisher in a game where they often kicked poorly. Both teams were guilty of slack finishing and indecision but the game was lively from the start and at times it looked like it might detonate, Michael Darragh Macauley picking up a yellow card along with Seamus Kennedy in the first half during a heated exchange. These were temporary aberrations; mostly the game was tough and played without rancour.
Clonmel were ahead 0-5 to 0-4 at the interval in ordinary time and demonstrating why their place in the semi-finals was merited. They began the match Quinlivan and Ian Barnes on the inside forward line, withdrawing Kevin Harney who was given a roaming role, which he embellished with a good score. They opened brightly, Quinlivan attacking his marker Stephen Hiney in an early run, but their finishing lacked the polish needed. Three early wides betrayed a hint of anxiety.
Colm Basquel won a free in the seventh minute which Kerin converted for the game's opening score. Jack Kennedy answered with a lovely point, curling the ball inside the near post, and an excellent diagonal ball from Robbie McDaid set up Sam Molony for a good score to put 'Boden up by two.
Having struggled to breach the 'Boden defence for much of the first half, scoring just two points in 23 minutes, Clonmel hit the last three scores of the first half to lead at the interval. Keaney, a relatively quiet presence until then, brought the teams level early in the second half with a free but they were finding scores increasingly hard to come by. Daniel Davey was called ashore early in the half after kicking his fourth wide, the management losing its patience.
Back stormed Clonmel, with Barnes kicking a beautiful score from play and then Quinlivan firing over a free to lead by two points nearing the end of the third quarter. When Kennedy landed a spectacular point, after great work by Ian Fahey, three points divided them for the first time with 15 minutes left.
O'Mahoney's red card had 'Boden in crisis but they never quit and once in extra-time they looked liberated.
Scorers - Ballyboden: A Kerin 0-7 (4f), C Keaney 0-4 (3f), S Molony, C Basquel, D Nelson, R Basquel 0-1. Clonmel: I Barnes 0-3 (2f), M Quinlivan 0-2 (1f); J Kennedy 0-2, K Harney, J Lonergan 0-1.
Ballyboden: P Durcan; B Dwan, S Hiney, S Clayton; R McDaid, D Nelson, A Waters; MD Macauley, D O'Mahoney; D Davey, C Basquel, D O'Reilly; C Keaney, S Molony, A Kerin. Subs: R Basquel for Davey (33 mins); S O'Connor for O'Reilly (34); S Gibbons for Molony (55); D McCabe for Gibbons (70); S Lambert for Molony (77).
Clonmel: J McDonald; F Condon, J Peters, D Lynch; D Madigan, K Fahey, L Moore; S Kennedy, J Kennedy; A Matassa, J Lonergan, I Fahey; I Barnes, M Quinlivan, K Harney. Subs: P White for Madigan (48 mins); P Looram for Barnes (55); S Taylor for Condon (black card 62); N Kelly for Qunlivan (black card, 62); S Flynn for Looran (71); Harney (replaced on black card, 80).
Referee: B Cassidy (Derry)