Kevin Harney inspires as fresher Commercials reach semi-finals

Jeddy Walsh

Jeddy Walsh

County SFC Quarter-Final:

Clonmel Commercials 0-14

Arravale Rovers 0-8

CLONMEL COMMERCIALS are through to the county senior football championship semi-final following a six points victory over Arravale Rovers at Cahir on Saturday afternoon last. They will now face Mid champions Loughmore/Castleiney in Cashel on Sunday next with the winners advancing to the county final.

In the driving seat for most of the game the Clonmel side were full value for their 0-14 to 0-8 success and will be happy to find themselves now at the business end of matters as the conclusion of the county championship approaches.

This was the Clonmel side’s first competitive outing since early September, a period in which the Tipperary Town side played six hard-fought championship games. On Saturday last Commercials looked like a side eager for football but for Arravale the toils of half a dozen successive games and the disappointment of losing the West final just six days earlier all took their toll.

Playing with the aid of the breeze in to the town end, Commercials got proceedings underway in the opening minute when Michael Quinlivan was fouled and scored the resultant close-in free. Arravale drew level after six minutes when Brian Lowry kicked a nice point from 30 metres out but it would be the only time in the game that parity prevailed. Almost immediately Johnny Harney, in his usual tricky and elusive style, scored a good point on the run for Commercials to lead again.

Exchanges were being fiercely contested at this stage with little asked or given and we had to wait until the 15th minute for the next score when Ian Barnes pointed a free for Commercials. Johnny Harney with his second point from play shoved the gap out to three points as Commercials began to find space to express themselves with Kevin Harney and Aldo Matassa shading it in the centre of the park.

Rovers, displaying a tenacity that had stood to them all season, pulled two points back in quick succession via James Hogan and Peter Mulhair with Michael O’Dwyer at centre-forward pivotal in both scores. Five minutes from the break, against a breeze, and just 0-4 to 0-3 down, Rovers wouldn’t have been too concerned.

Commercials, as if sensing the urgency, pushed on for the remainder of the half. Ian Barnes with a beautifully struck free from way out on the right stemmed the tide and just before half-time a free from 45 metres off the ground by Michael Quinlivan gave Commercials breathing space with a 0-6 to 0-3 half-time lead.

On the resumption Jason Lonergan appeared for Ian Fahey and within half a minute had kicked a fine point. In the second minute the industrious Johnny Harney capitalised on a misplaced pass in the Arravale defence to stretch the lead to five points. The signs seemed ominous for the West Division outfit. A lesser side may have capitulated but Arravale Rovers responded bravely. In their best period in the game they registered three points without reply. In all three scores Brian Jones played a part. With the first he set up Stephen Quinn to score; for the second Jones was fouled with the free converted by James Hogan; and for the third his long pass saw Brian Lowry impeded with James Hogan again obliging with the free. Just two points down again, was a surprise on the cards after all?

That question was emphatically answered by a fresher Commercials with five points in-a-row in a seven minute period to put the game beyond the reach of Arravale. Ian Barnes, who got more involved as the game progressed, kicked two, one a particularly sweet point after a passing exchange with the excellent Kevin Harney. On 49 minutes Michael Quinlivan pointed from play and this was quickly followed by a peach of a point from substitute Lonergan after Jamie Peters fielded excellently in midfield. On 52 minutes Aldo Matassa got on the scoring sheet after more good work by a very active Lonergan.

In the closing minutes Arravale responded with two points one from substitute Paddy Dalton and a late free by Brian Lowry.

Then in perhaps the best movement of the match, Arravale worked the ball from their backline all the way up to the opposite end with captain Robbie Kiely on the end of the movement; his low piledriver going narrowly wide. It would have made for a nail-biting finish. In a way that passage of play almost summed up the whole season for Arravale - plenty of good football, non-stop effort and commitment, never-say-die spirit, yet no reward at the end of it.

Deep into added time Commercials Aldo Matassa kicked the last point of the game with a long range free.

For Commercials Kevin Harney in midfield and everywhere else was magnificent while others to shine on the day were Jamie Peters, Seamus Kennedy, Aldo Matassa, Johnny Harney, Richie Carroll in the first half and Jason Lonergan in the second.

For Arravale Rovers a season with a lot of football played comes to an end empty-handed but they lost nothing in defeat on Saturday. The starting full-back line of Gerard Mulhair, Robbie Kiely and Peter Mulhair did very well under enormous pressure, Shane Leahy tried time and time again to link defence with attack, while in the forwards Stephen Quinn and Brian Jones never stopped trying.

Clonmel Commercials: Evan Comerford, Fergal Condon (capt.), Donal Lynch, Danny Madigan, Jamie Peters, Seamus Kennedy, Luke Moore, Aldo Matassa (0-2 0-1F), Kevin Harney, Ian Fahey, Niall Kelly, Richie Carroll; Ian Barnes (0-4, 0-2F), Michael Quinlivan (0-3, 0-2F), John Harney (0-3).

Subs: Jason Lonergan (0-2) for Ian Fahey; Shane Taylor for Richie Carroll; Brian O’Hara for Luke Moore; Ciaran O’Connell for Niall Kelly; Alan Lonergan for John Harney.

Arravale Rovers: Brian Glasheen, Gerard Mulhair, Robbie Kiely (capt.), Peter Mulhair (0-1), Donnagh Leahy, Shane Leahy, Roger O’Connor, Damien Kiely, Darren Lowry, Stephen Quinn (0-1), Michael O’Dwyer, James Hogan (0-3, 0-2F), Brian Lowry (0-2, 0-1F), Timmy Dalton, Brian Jones.

Subs: Sean O’Meara for Damien Kiely; Paddy Dalton (0-1) for Darren Lowry (injured); John Hayes for Timmy Dalton; Andy Lacey for Stephen Quinn.

Referee: Tom McGrath (Loughmore/Castleiney).