This coming Friday evening the final showpiece of the TSDL season takes place, with holders Clonmel Celtic seeking a third successive victory in the Clonmel Credit Union-sponsored Tipperary Challenge Cup when they lock horns with eight-time winners St. Michael’s FC of Tipperary town in Palmers Hill, Cashel at 6.45.
It’s four years since St. Michael’s last won the blue riband trophy of the Tipperary Southern and District League, the Tipperary Challenge Cup, and on that occasion it was their reserve team that produced the biggest shock to date in the 37 year history of this competition when they defeated a highly fancied Clonmel Celtic side in a penalty shoot-out.
St. Michael’s have been excellent ambassadors for the game in the Premier County with their exploits on the provincial and national stage, but deep down they would like to add a domestic honour to their haul, one that has surprisingly eluded them since winning the League in 2003 and the cup in 2007.
St. Michael’s were the first winners of this trophy in 1974 and although they retained it the following year, that success wasn’t repeated until 1989. They lifted it again in 1995 and ’98 before the treble of 2005, ’06 and ’07. They have four fewer cup wins than Clonmel Town and would dearly like to close the gap, but will they be capable of picking themselves up after the major disappointment of another FAI Junior Cup Final defeat last Sunday?
On paper St. Michael’s had the easier path to this final despite playing in all five rounds. There was just one Premier League hurdle to overcome as the Tipp town giants produced victories against Clonmel Celtic (B) 4-0 at home; Two Mile Borris 4-2 away, St. Nicholas 4-0 at home, Cashel Town 4-0 away and Moyglass United 7-1 at home.
Holders Clonmel Celtic, who have become a force in the TSDL, blew their opportunity of that elusive first Premier League crown this season because they drew games they should have won and that allowed Clonmel Town, the only side to beat them, to nick it from their grasp. Now they want to rectify that by becoming the 37th winners of the Tipperary Cup.
Celtic were founded just seven years ago, following the amalgamation of St. Oliver’s Boys, St. Martin’s and Clonmel Evergreen – winners in 1981 and ’82. It has been a marriage made in heaven, one that has seen Celtic become the new boys on the block. After the disappointment of 2007, they bounced back in style to lift this prestigious trophy in 2009 and again last year.
Celtic, after defeating Killenaule Rovers 3-1 away, had a bye in the Second Round. They got that monkey off their backs by defeating St. Michael’s (B) 4-1 at home in the next round. Then they produced their best results to date, defeating two of their main rivals in Clonmel. They had a fantastic 3-1 away win over Premier League champions Town before winning away to Wilderness Rovers by 2-1.
While St. Michael’s will be another major hurdle to overcome, Celtic have already drawn with them in the league 1-1 and lost 1-0 to Saints in the 4th Round of the FAI Junior Cup, two matches that were played in Tipp town. They won’t fear the TSDL giants, as the Clonmel outfit seek that third consecutive final victory.
Considering there has been very little between these sides this season this should be a closely-fought contest, with the possibility of extra-time and penalties needed to decide the outcome.