Clonmel Commercials ready to show they can mix it with the best
By John Harrington
If you’re the sort of Gaelic football fan who is in the habit of hopping in your car on an average weekend and pointing it in the direction of where you’re more likely to get best value for money, then you might be well advised to aim for Thurles on Sunday.
That’s because the meeting of Tipperary’s Clonmel Commercials and Dingle of Kerry in the AIB Munster SFC semi-final in Semple Stadium is potentially the match of the weekend.
A Dingle team that includes Kerry stars like Paul Geaney and Tom O’Sullivan and a strong supporting cast play an eye-pleasing brand of attacking football.
While Clonmel Commercials have the look of a team that’s coming into its prime and combine a hardy physicality with some real flair in attack.
It’s rare you’d give a Tipperary football team equal billing with a Kerry one, but there’s every reason to believe that Commercials are quite capable of reaching their third provincial final in eight seasons.
Veterans of their successful 2015 campaign like Michael Quinlivan, Seamus Kennedy, Kevin Fahey, and Jack Kennedy are still in their prime, and the team has been super-charged by a new generation of talented footballers like Peter McGarry, Seanie O’Connor, James Morris, and Tadgh Condon.
So even though team manager Tommy Morrissey insists Dingle should be regarded as favourites for the win on Sunday, he doesn’t mind admitting either that his own team will fully believe in their own ability to make it to a provincial final.
“You’ve mentioned the names of some players in the dressing-room who have huge experience, that’s evident,” Morrissey told GAA.ie
“While we don’t have the football inter-county medals that some of those Kerry boys would have, we do have Munster club medals with a lot of those key players and they’ve gone the distance in that sense.
“And, also, we’ve been in this competition for the last number of years, going back for the last decade really, we’ve been competing in the Munster championship. I think in the last 12 years we’ve been in it eight or nine times. There’s an experience that comes with that as well.
“And playing football this time of year which is not necessarily the dry ball and the dry ground of August/September time, things change in the last few weeks there, so that’s a factor as well which has to be taken into account.
“We absolutely know that we’re underdogs, no doubt about it, but we feel that we have a strong panel and team and we’ve no shame in saying that we want to be competing at this level and it’s up to us now to do that.”
Commercials were utterly dominant in Tipperary this year, winning their six championship matches by an average margin of 15 points each.
What stood out along the way was how ruthlessly they put teams to the sword even when the result was already a formality.
That was with one eye on a potential Munster campaign. Had they coasted in some games they could have developed bad habits which would be then exposed by better teams in the provincial competition.
“You have to set your own standards internally knowing that when you get to play that are going to be pushing you that you’re ready and able for it,” says Morrissey.
“You set the challenge within yourself to be ready for that. So you have to set a ruthless standard on the field.
“You have to show respect to your opposition by doing that, regardless of what way the game is going. Whether it’s a tight game when you’re winning by a point or two that you stick to what your game-plan is.
“Or whether it’s a game that you’re winning quite easily, then you still keep the same mentality that you don’t let up. To be honest with you, the squad drives that.
“Our players know that if they show any kind of weakness that there’s another fella waiting for the jersey watching on and he’ll grab it at the next training session.
Veterans like Michael Quinlivan, Seamus Kennedy, and Jack Kennedy will be recognisable names to Gaelic football enthusiasts up and down the country, and a few of the younger guns will soon have national renown too if they continue their upward curve.
Peter McGarry, in particular, has caught he eye in recent weeks. A dual star who is expected to be drafted into the Tipperary senior hurling panel next year, he’s scored sensational goals in his last two matches – the Tipperary final victory over JK Brackens and the Munster Quarter-Final win over Newcastle West.
“Yeah, Peter is a huge talent,” says Morrissey. “He was coming in and out last year. He was used as a sub in the last 15 or 20 minutes whereas this year his role has changed and he’s a starter and a key player.
“He’s really stood up to it this year and I suppose that’s the appetite that he has to play the game at a high level be it hurling or football. He wants to push himself to play at the highest level possible so he needs to perform when he gets opportunities like this and he has done so. It’s great for him.”
McGarry isn’t the only up and comer to have caught the eye in recent weeks. Sean O’Connor is developing into a powerful target-man in attack, while James Morris, and Tadgh Condon are two very tigerish defenders.
“I think it’s a reflection of the commitment and sacrifices that these lads have been making,” says Morrissey of their steady improvement.
“They’re not just taking part, a lot of these lads are making huge changes in their lifestyles to push themselves to a higher level and I think it’s showing then on the field.
“You’re naming those lads out because they’re standing out in games. They’re showing that they’re moving up a level. They’re not just sitting back on the performances on the names they’ve already made for themselves.
“They’re pushing themselves to go further which from a management point of view makes them a dream to work with. Because if there are lads like that pushing on the field, it will only pull the rest of the lads behind them that are trying to challenge.”