Seamus Kennedy was in outstanding form for Clonmel Commercials when they beat Loughmore/Casteliney in Sunday's County Senior Football Championship semi-final after extra-time
Clonmel Commercials 1-17 Loughmore/Castleiney 1-15 (after extra-time)
Championship favourites Clonmel Commercials survived a rigorous examination of their credentials in Sunday's FBD Insurance County Senior Football semi-final at Boherlahan, when they edged out Loughmore/Castleiney by two points, after extra-time.
In a dramatic encounter, the Clonmel side looked in trouble at half-time in extra-time when they trailed by a point to a Loughmore side that looked to have all the momentum behind them.
However Commercials took complete control of the game in the final period of extra-time, holding Loughmore scoreless while kicking three points from play to secure their place in the final against surprise packets JK Brackens in the decider on the weekend of November 9-10.
When the pressure was at its most intense, Tipperary hurling star Seamus Kennedy proved himself a man for the big occasion. A fearless leader of his team all afternoon, he kicked two points in the second half of extra time as Commercials regained a slender lead.
When Richie Gunne set up Jason Lonergan for the last point of the game, they were two ahead and with just a minute remaining it was all or nothing for Loughmore. But the Mid team never looked like grabbing the goal that would have snatched victory, as the Commercials defence stood firm to help their side hold onto this precious, hard-earned win.
Commercials looked on course to turn a potentially tricky tie into a procession when they twice led by six points in the opening half. The Clonmel side may have been sporting unfamiliar and predominantly white shirts in a change of kit, but there was no mistaking their familiar style of slick passing and brisk movement in the early stages.
However a Loughmore side that had been labouring were a team transformed in the second half, as they clawed back a four-points deficit (0-10 to 0-6). When their backs were against the wall, they typically rose to the challenge to take the initiative in a game during which fortunes ebbed and flowed.
They took closer order at the beginning of the second half with three points from Liam Treacy in the opening 12 minutes, although their momentum briefly stalled when Liam McGrath was forced to depart injured, after being treated on the pitch for several minutes.
One of the game's major talking points occurred midway through the second half when Commercials' Michael Quinlivan and Loughmore's John Ryan were given their marching orders, as a sometimes feisty encounter boiled over.
The Loughmore player was given a straight red card but the second yellow and red cards brandished by referee Derek O'Mahoney in Quinlivan's direction means he'll be available for the final, much to his side's relief.
Commercials finally showed signs of having weathered the Loughmore storm and they regained some composure when Jack Kennedy converted a free (0-11 to 0-9), which gave them their first score of the second half (after 19 minutes) and their first score in 23 minutes.
Loughmore, however, were determined not to be cut adrift and a great run and point from Evan Sweeney meant there was only a point between them before the game exploded to life with two goals in the space of three minutes, as an exciting contest was elevated to new heights.
Commercials had the first when, following a quickly-taken line ball, Colman Kennedy and Ross Peters engineered the opening for Jason Lonergan to crash a shot high into the net.
With Commercials four points ahead with six minutes of normal time remaining, they were well placed to go on and win the game in normal time.
But, as everyone knows, Loughmore are never beaten too easily and Commercials were rocked back on their heels when Cian Hennessy sent a low shot past Commercials goalie Michael O'Reilly to bring Loughmore right back into contention.
Within a minute super sub Hennessy was at it again when he rounded off a neat passing move between Liam Treacy, John McGrath and Evan Sweeney to kick the equaliser.
When Evan Sweeney was dragged back, Liam Treacy converted a free at the conclusion of normal time to give Loughmore a lead that they had previously held only once, in the second minute.
With Loughmore now within touching distance of a famous victory, history looked like repeating itself, after they had beaten Commercials at the same stage of the championship and at the same venue three years ago.
Staring down the barrel of defeat, Commercials roused themselves for one last effort. The equaliser, in the second minute of additional time, came from an unlikely source in corner-back Danny Madigan, one of their best performers all afternoon, who turned out to be their saviour when he fisted a point after Kevin Harney, Conal Kennedy and Kevin Fahey had all been involved in the build-up, to earn them a deserved draw.
Loughmore held the advantage at the end of the first half of extra-time. In the tit-for-tat exchanges Seamus Kennedy struck first for Commercials, with John McGrath replying before Seanie O'Connor put Commercials a point in front again.
Liam Treacy kicked a fine equaliser from a free from almost the 45 mark before a Joseph Nyland point left Loughmore ahead at half-time in extra-time by 1-15 to 1-14.
Commercials, however, lasted the distance better and they will feel that this severe test will stand them in good stead for what is sure to be another tough game against JK Brackens.
As well as scoring four points from play, Seamus Kennedy hoovered up an amount of possession all over the pitch and carried the Clonmel team through their most difficult and testing moments.
Danny Madigan and captain, Jamie Peters were outstanding in a defence that absorbed an amount of pressure. Jack Kennedy and Kevin Fahey (until his injury-enforced departure in extra-time) were on song at various stages while Seanie O'Connor and Jason Lonergan made important scoring contributions.
Ross Peters, Michael Quinlivan and substitute Kevin Fahey were others who caught the eye in this memorable victory.
Freed from the distractions of the hurling championship, their opponents gave it everything and the manner in which they fought back and dug themselves out of the hole in which they found themselves in the first half was vintage Loughmore.
Liam Treacy was their most consistent performer all afternoon and he had willing accomplices in Noel McGrath, Willie Eviston, Evan Sweeney, John Meagher and John McGrath, who all grew into the game after that uncertain opening.
But if anything they over-relied on Treacy (who kicked nine points) for scores.
Liam McGrath was also going well until he retired injured, while Cian Hennessy gave them a real shot in the arm when he was introduced, scoring a goal and a point.
In a lively opening the teams were level at 0-2 each after six minutes, Liam Treacy twice finding the target for Loughmore, with Seanie O'Connor and Seamus Kennedy scoring for Commercials.
Jason Lonergan gave Commercials the lead after a great catch and solo by Michael Quinlivan and they went further in front when Jack Kennedy's shot struck the crossbar and flew over the bar.
Commercials warmed to their task with further points from Jason Lonergan and a fine effort from Michael Quinlivan, while Liam Treacy kept Loughmore in touch from a free.
The Mid team also went close early on when Aidan McGrath sent a low shot wide across the face of the goal.
Commercials were largely in the ascendancy, however, and scores from Seanie O'Connor, Ross Peters and Jack Kennedy (from a free) helped them surge six clear (0-9 to 0-3).
Liam Treacy had Loughmore's first score in 12 minutes but Commercials were six ahead again after 26 minutes when Colman Kennedy scored.
Brian McGrath became the first Loughmore player other than Liam Treacy to score in the 26th minute, and when Treacy converted a free they were well in the game at the break, despite having been outplayed for long periods.
Commercials' lead at that stage could have been even healthier; shortly before the half ended Jason Lonergan had a stinging goal-bound shot blocked, while Kevin Fahey struck the post when they threatened another point.
At half-time in normal time there was still a long way to go in a game in which the teams were level seven times, with the lead changing hands five times.
Clonmel Commercials - Michael O'Reilly, Danny Madigan (0-1), Liam Ryan, Jamie Peters (captain), Kevin Fahey, Richie Gunne, Conal Kennedy, Seamus Kennedy (0-4), Michael Quinlivan (0-1), Padraic Looram, Jack Kennedy (0-3, 2 frees), Ross Peters (0-1), Colman Kennedy (0-1), Jason Lonergan (1-3) and Seanie O'Connor (0-3).
Substitutes - Ryan Lambe for Padraic Looram (25 minutes), Kevin Harney for Conal Kennedy (61 minutes), Padraic Looram for Michael Quinlivan (extra-time replacement), Donal Lynch for Kevin Fahey (extra time), Cathal McGeever for Ross Peters (extra-time), Richie Gunne for Cathal McGeever (black card, extra-time) and Ross Peters for Jamie Peters (black card extra-time).
Loughmore/Castleiney - Dominic Brennan, Lorcan Egan, John Meagher, Tomas McGrath, John Ryan, Ciaran McGrath, Willie Eviston, Noel McGrath, Brian McGrath (0-1), Joseph Nyland (0-1), Evan Sweeney (0-2), Liam Treacy (0-9, 7 frees), Liam McGrath, John McGrath (0-1) and Aidan McGrath.
Substitutes - Joseph Hennessy for Aidan McGrath (29 minutes), Cian Hennessy (1-1) for Liam McGrath (43 minutes), Ciaran Connolly for John Ryan (extra time replacement) and Eamon Connolly for Brian McGrath (extra-time).
Referee - Derek O'Mahoney (Ardfinnan).
For a report of the second FBD Insurance County Tipperary Senior Football Championship semi-final read JK Brackens dethrone holders Moyle Rovers