Skipping a brother's stag for a county quarter-final, 'the worst best man,' and a Munster semi-final to come

Jason Lonergan sacrificed a lot to be available to play for Clonmel Commercials.

THE LONERGAN FAMILY tried earnestly to arrange a wedding around Clonmel Commercials’ football championship campaign this year.

jason-lonergan Jason Lonergan had a hectic 24-hours before the Tipperary SFC final. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Having already won three Tipperary SFC crowns in this decade, it was likely that their run was going to last well into the autumn and winter months. And maybe even longer.

The Lonergans knew it was going to be tricky to avoid clashes with big games.

At the mid-way point in November, Commercials have already collected another county title to bring their overall tally of senior championships to 18. On Sunday, they face Clare champions St Joseph’s Miltown Malbay in a Munster semi-final.

Lonergan brothers Jason and Alan are both servants of the Clonmel cause. Jason kicked two points from play in their 21-point win over JK Brackens in the county final, while Alan had been playing during the season before he suffered a bang.

He was the one with the wedding on the horizon in Wicklow. They tried to accommodate Clonmel’s fixture calendar without disturbing the nuptials, but as every GAA player knows, it’s a difficult balancing act.

The first major clash took place around Alan’s stage in Prague. As misfortune would have it, the trip collided with the weekend of Clonmel Commercials’ county quarter-final against Ballyporeen.

The groom had no choice but to go ahead with his party plans, but it was less straight-forward for his brother — and best man — Jason.

“I pulled out of that unfortunately,” Jason tells The42 ahead of the Munster semi-final. “It’s impossible to plan anything for October. You’ve no idea when you’re going to be playing so it’s not easy.

It was a definite no from me. I had the flights booked but that was my own mistake, booking something for October.

“The dates were sent out to us so it was organised weeks in advance. And once you got the dates sure I already had everything booked because it was cheaper at the time. But sure… Ah look, it wasn’t the end of the world.

I won the award for being the worst best man anyway.”

Alan understood the difficult position his brother was in and supported his decision to stay at home and keep their club’s campaign on the road. 

clonmel-commercials-celebrate The victorious Clonmel Commercials team after the 2019 Tipperary SFC final. Source: Tom O’Hanlon/INPHO

Following their 4-13 to 0-7 victory over Ballyporeen, Clonmel faced Loughmore-Castleiney in the Tipperary semi-final where they squeezed over the line with a two-point win after extra-time.

After falling short at the final-four stage in the Tipperary championship last year, the Commercials were relieved to be back in a county decider.

However, it presented another big dilemma for the Lonergans. Alan’s wedding was set for the day before the final against JK Brackens. 

This time, Jason was able to perform the best man duties for his brother, but was forced to have an early night to prepare for the final. Alan had to withdraw from the game entirely and support the team from afar.

“It was a bit hectic alright,” Lonergan recalls. “My brother got married in Wicklow on the Friday night before we played JK Brackens. 

I waited until the first dance was over and once I said goodbye to the family, I left. They weren’t best pleased but sure look. I had to go off and I left at about half 11 and I was home in bed by about 1 o’clock. It was a tough drive home.

“There was maybe eight [players] invited to the wedding and once the county final date was set for the Saturday, they all pulled out. They gave my brother a text and said they couldn’t go up the night before.

“Even if you weren’t having a drink, it’s still a long day.”

The compromises and sacrifices were worthwhile in the end. Lonergan helped Clonmel Commercials to an emphatic win against a JK Brackens who were competing in their first senior county decider.

There was a meal and a few drinks for the team after their victory, but with the provincial semi-final quickly coming into focus, the celebrations were low-key.

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Manager Charlie McGeever didn’t hesitate to restore order in the group. 

Charlie had stuff put into the WhatsApp [group] straight away for us to review and start studying,” says Lonergan before adding that the team resumed training within a few days of that victory to ready themselves for the challenge against last year’s Munster finalists.

Clonmel Commercials became the first Tipperary club to win a Munster SFC in 2015, when star forward Michael Quinlivan kicked an injury-time goal to edge out Cork’s Nemo Rangers.

clonmel-players-and-fans-celebrate-at-the-final-whistle Ecstasy at full-time when Clonmel Commercials won the 2015 Munster final. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Lonergan, who lined out at half-forward that day, finished with a point in that historic triumph and remains a key member of the Clonmel attacking unit.

As expected, he quickly deflects all talk away from any thoughts of a potential second Munster title. Those conversations are for people outside the Clonmel Commercials bubble.

For now, Lonergan is content with the positive vibes at training, and a shot at getting back to the Munster final against either Kerry’s Austin Stacks or their old rivals Nemo Rangers.

And with no wedding clashes to factor in this time, the entire Lonergan family can make their way to Miltown Malbay for the 1.30 pm throw-in on Sunday.

“They’re a savage team,” says Lonergan of their Clare opponents. 

“We’ll take it like any game, like we’ve done all year and hopefully it works out for us.

It’s unreal. When we had the run in 2015, it was all about getting out of Tipp and the next step. There’s nothing different this year.”

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