County U-21 A football semi-final.
JK Brackens 0-11
Clonmel Commercials 2-6
Winding my way through “horsey” country I eagerly anticipated my debut visit to Fethard Town Park and what it had to offer. The sky was illuminated shortly after Killenaule and having passed under the North gate of the historic Norman town I was very envious of the grounds that greeted me. This magnificent modern facility, superbly laid out, was spacious, clean and welcoming and even had a vending machine with hot drinks which were most welcome on a freezing cold night. The South champions had five starters from the Dingle game the previous Sunday and were strong favourites to advance. In a low-scoring defensive game scores were as rare as hen’s teeth and we waited seven minutes for the opener, a pointed free from Cathal Deeley. Tom Bourke was alert in the Brackens goal to deny Darragh O’Connor a goal in the eight minute, but excellent interplay between Anthony Keeley and Peter McGarry saw the former slip the ball past Bourke for the opening major. Brackens were on the back foot but a patient build-up in the 12th minute saw Conor Cadell open their account with a nice point from play. Ten minutes passed before Brian Quinn doubled Bracken’s tally from a free on the left before James Corcoran repeated the trick from the right in the 25th minute following excellent approach work by Jack Nevin and Ned Walsh. Brackens were dominating possession by now and finished the half with two lovely points from play courtesy of Quinn and Cadell to lead 0-5 to 1-1 at the break.
Following Keeley’s goal in the 9th minute, Commercials only had three further attempts on goal before half-time, with none of them finding the target. Cian Smith’s free in the 34th minute found a similar fate before a late tackle on Paddy Moloney in the 38th minute saw James Corcoran double Bracken’s lead from the resultant free. Bourke made another excellent block in the 39th minute, this time from Peter McGarry before Clonmel landed their first score in 30 minutes when Declan Nee pointed from play. Despite the low-scoring there was no shortage of effort on both sides with plenty of hard-tackling. Referee Donie Horan deemed one of those tackles to be blatant and Commercials Rory O’Dowd got ten minutes rest in the 41st minute. Despite their numerical disadvantage Darragh O’Connor had them level from a free three minutes later before Joe Bourke restored Bracken’s lead from play in the 47th minute. It was as you were when O’Dowd returned with nine minutes to go but it was Brackens who looked more likely with Ned Delaney fisting them two ahead on 54 minutes. Brackens were fuming in the 59th minute when what appeared to be a blatant free went unpunished, Commercials surged forward, and Tadhg Condon goaled to put them 2-3 to 0-8 ahead with the clock stopped on sixty minutes. They regained their composure and almost grabbed the winning goal but Shane Ryan in the Clonmel goal somehow managed to keep the ball out in a goalmouth scramble. The ball was eventually recycled to Conor Cadell who fired over the equaliser and our visit was extended by a further twenty minutes. As both teams tired the space opened up a little in extra-time and Cian Smith fired over two quick fire points in the 6th and 7th minutes before substitute Darragh Doyle kicked a fine point for Brackens to leave Commercials 2-5 to 0-10 ahead at the break. Dean Cagney stretched their lead to two with five minutes remaining but a free from James Corcoran in the 18th minute ensured a frantic finish. But try as they might Brackens couldn’t weave their way through the Clonmel defence for that elusive equaliser as the South champions advanced to the decider with Cappawhite Gaels. It wasn’t their most polished display, but Clonmel will be glad with their defensive effort on a night when their forwards were quiet. Great credit must go to Bracken’s rearguard who put in a sterling effort, but perhaps they will be disappointed that they didn’t take advantage of a slightly off-colour Clonmel, particularly during O’Dowd’s black card. It was 8pm now and as the supporters scuttled off to the warmth of their car the Junior footballers of Newcastle and Carrick Davins emerged from the beautiful clubhouse to contest the Tipperary Challenge Cup final. A late night in store for Tommy Sheehan. One suspects that there will many more visits to Fethard.
Clonmel Commercials: Shane Ryan, Rory O’Dowd, Ross Slattery, Tadhg Condon (1-0), Tadhg Sheehan, James Morris, Thomas Charles, Joe Higgins, Cathal Deely (0-1f), Darragh O’Connor (0-1f), Dean Cagney (0-1), Oisin Forristal, Anthony Keeley (1-0), Declan Nee (0-1), Peter McGarry.
Subs: Cian Smith (0-2,1f) for Keeley, inj. (17), Niall Deeley for Forristal, inj. (21), Alex McSherry for Morris (52).
JK Brackens: Tom Bourke, James Ryan, Jamie Bergin, Patrick Moloney, Jack Nevin, Stephen Cahill, Michael Cahill, Conor Cadell (0-3), Diarmuid Delaney, Ned Walsh, James Corcoran (0-3f), Ned Delaney (0-1), Brian Quinn (0-2,1f), Michael Delaney, Joe Bourke (0-1).
Subs: Darragh Doyle (0-1) for Quinn (60), Ciaran O’Shea for Michael Delaney (72), Sean Collier for Ryan (75).
Referee: Donie Horan.