Sunday 8 December 2019

Nemo determined to prevent lightning from striking twice

Michael Quinlivan turns to celebrate his late goal as Nemo players hold their heads in disappointment after Clonmel Commercials secured a stunning victory in the Munster SFC final in 2015. Photo: Sportsfile
Michael Quinlivan turns to celebrate his late goal as Nemo players hold their heads in disappointment after Clonmel Commercials secured a stunning victory in the Munster SFC final in 2015. Photo: Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

It's injury time in the 2015 Munster club SFC final and for Clonmel Commercials, it looks like this provincial final is going the way of the previous four they have contested.

They've asked some hard questions but it looks like it won't be enough. Nemo Rangers, so often the kings of the province, are two points up and looking to see out the game with just over a minute of injury time left to play.

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With the benefit of hindsight, perhaps the stage was set for something dramatic.

The weather has been desperate in Cork and around the country.

RTÉ decide they'll need more than just score updates from Mallow. The late broadcaster Pat McAuliffe is on duty for them there and he spots former Cork selector John Corcoran, also sadly no longer with us, in the crowd. He's quickly seated in the press box and they are on hand to commentate on the drama of injury time.

Whips

The rain whips in so hard the cameras can scarcely keep it off their lenses but Jack Horgan taps over to put Nemo two up with just over 90 seconds to play. What follows is straight out of the pages of Roy of the Rovers.

For a moment, Clonmel Commercials become Clon-Melchester Rovers.

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Nemo try to kill the match. Paul Kerrigan takes a yellow for delaying the taking of a free. From the half-way line Clonmel launch one more attack.

Michael Quinlivan gets a hand on a high dropping ball and then gathers his own break. And with his left foot he finds the corner of the net. Nemo are stunned and there's so little time left they can only get the ball just past half-way when the whistle blows.

For the first time, a Tipperary team are the province's top dogs, and they had done it in the most dramatic way.

"I can remember because I was feckin captain," Kerrigan recalls ahead of tomorrow's renewal between the sides in Dungarvan.

"They took a short kick-out - myself or one of the lads fouled him, inside their 45. They took another short kick-pass to midfield - another one of our lads fouled him. Then your man got up and launched it. Quinlivan caught it or broke it, and just swivelled. And it just dribbled into the far corner.

"I suppose our biggest lesson was, last minute of a Munster final and we were two points up - we just didn't have enough bodies behind the ball.

"The sickening part is you didn't have a chance to go for an equaliser. It was literally the last kick of the game. It was galling for two years. I've come around to it though. Whether they beat us by one or 10 points it's still in the books that they won Munster."

It was another huge moment for the Clonmel club. Four years previously they had back-boned Tipperary minor football to one of the biggest days for the big ball in the county.

Commercials had seven members on the minor team that toppled Dublin in the All-Ireland final. Somewhat eerily they won that game with a late goal, too, from Clonmel's Colman Kennedy.

Prophetically

After that win Commercials man Ned Brophy stated prophetically that he could hardly imagine a better day.

"If I live to 100 - and I won't - I'll never, ever experience again a day like September 18 last year when Tipperary won the minor All-Ireland football title… The only thing that might top it is if Commercials can win in Munster," he said in 2012.

Brophy's dream looked a long shot then. Before that 2015 campaign, a Tipperary team hadn't managed to win a game in Munster club SFC since 2006 but manager Charlie McGeever had steered them home.

McGeever has led a sporting life less ordinary and once rubbed shoulders with Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa while on trial with Spurs the summer after they won the FA Cup in 1982. Now he had plotted the downfall of one of club football's royalty.

Celebrations followed and the news cameras landed in Clonmel. In the All-Ireland semi-final they lost out in dramatic circumstances to Ballyboden, who would claim All-Ireland honours on St Patrick's day.

Nemo, as is their wont, recovered to win two county titles and even reach an All-Ireland final. It has been very much business as usual for them.

Commercials will always have Mallow and will be huge underdogs when the game starts. But if nothing else tomorrow, both teams will know the value of playing to the final whistle.

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