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Dublin: 7°C Sunday 11 April 2021

'It probably took me two years to get over that'

The 2015 Munster final is still fresh on the minds of Nemo Rangers and Clonmel Commercials ahead of this weekend’s rematch.

Paul Kerrigan reacts to a missed chance during the 2015 Munster club final.
Paul Kerrigan reacts to a missed chance during the 2015 Munster club final.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

THERE ARE 30 seconds of stoppage-time left in the Munster club football final on a typically wet and windy Sunday afternoon in November 2015. 

Clonmel Commercials are trailing Nemo Rangers by two points and desperately in need of a goal when they’re awarded a free at midfield.

“Clonmel, they have a free,” says Killian Whelan on Tipp FM commentary. “They need a goal now.”

“Wrong area of the field though,” remarks his co-commentator Tom McGrath. 

Nemo forward Paul Kerrigan prevents a quick free from being taken and the referee moves it forward.

“Nemo are using some of their guile now to slow this game down,” Whelan adds.

Kerrigan is booked. “You’re half-thinking, ‘I’m going to be lifting the cup here’,” the Cork man recalled this week in Dublin.

Commercials work the ball forward and Tipperary hurler Seamus Kennedy launches a high delivery in towards dangerman Michael Quinlivan. Quinlivan leaps between two Nemo defenders, palms the ball down to himself and rolls a daisycutter across the goalkeeper into the far corner.

The radio commentary perfectly captures the drama. 

Whelan: “Dangerous ball, Quinlivan is underneath it. Gets a touch on it…”

“—he has it,” interjects McGrath.

“13 metres out. Shot…it’s a goaaal!” roars Whelan. “It’s in the net. Goaaal! What a goal! Wahoow!”

Source: Tipp FM Radio/SoundCloud

The goal is burned into Kerrigan’s mind: “High ball in, good swivel, shot into the bottom corner, far post.” 

Kennedy didn’t even see the ball go past Micheál Martin.

“Michael’s goal, I just kind of saw the net move because I was back further the field,” he says.

The final whistle is sounded immediately. 

“I was captain on the day,” continues Kerrigan. “It was very devastating. Literally last kick of the game, you didn’t even have a chance to draw. It was blown up.”

clonmel-celebrate-winning Clonmel celebrate their Munster victory in 2015. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

The two clubs meet in the Munster final on Sunday four years on from that dramatic finish saw Clonmel lift their sole provincial title. Naturally, that game frequently comes up during conversations with Kerrigan and Kennedy at media event previewing this weekend’s rematch.

Kennedy has been part of two Tipperary teams that lifted the Liam MacCarthy Cup, but still places that victory as his career highlight.

“That’s it, that’s number one,” he says. “That’s not to devalue anything I’ve been lucky enough to win with Tipp or anything like that, but the couple of days in Clonmel after that…Clonmel had knocked on the door a couple of times in the ’90s in Munster club finals and not gotten over the line.

“When we did, to see the reaction of all of those players that played, the likes of John McNamara in the club, it just blew us away, to be honest.  Obviously it’s the cliché, winning with the people you grew up, but that’s what it is. The people you grew up with, your family and your friends. 

“My grandfather played with Commericals in the ’60s on the three-in-a-row team and there are a few other lads like that. There’s just that tradition and that thing of being involved with the club that’s just that bit extra-special.

“Meeting my parents after the game, my brother and my grandmother who goes to all the Commercials matches. It was her husband who would have played in those games in the ’60s and unfortunately he’s not here now.

“To see what it meant to here and that generation of Clonmel people on the pitch afterwards, tears in their eyes and everything like that, it was just unbelievable really, memories you could hold forever.”

aib-gaa-provincial-finals-media-day Seamus Kennedy and Paul Kerrigan ahead of the AIB Munster club SFC final. Source: Sam Barnes/SPORTSFILE

For Kerrigan, the pain of that loss was long-lasting.  

“It took me a while to get over it,” he admits. “It probably took me two years to get over that. But then you’re thinking if they beat us by a point or ten points, it still goes down in the record books that they won.

“So you just have to park it. Beating Crokes (in the Munster final) two years ago helped this group get over that, and now we can try and move on and hopefully win another Munster.”

Incidentally, it’s not the first meeting between Nemo and Clonmel this year. They faced-off in a challenge match on 5 August in a game where the Cork kingpins handed out a heavy beating to Commercials. 

A week out from the All-Ireland hurling semi-final against Wexford, Kennedy was there as a spectator. 

“I left that day and I was going, ‘Jesus, what the hell is going on here?’ To be honest, we felt that we were going well at the time and Nemo gave us a bit of a licking that day. 

“The game aside, something that really opened our eyes that day was Mark Cronin who won an All-Ireland (U20) final on the Saturday and Paul Kerrigan who had played with Cork (in the Super 8s) the day before were both there on the Bank Holiday Monday. 

“It kind of made us sit back a bit and go, ‘Hold on a second here. This is why Nemo are so successful. These guys are well entitled to a weekend off, but, now, they’re in Clonmel on the Bank Holiday Monday playing Clonmel Commercials in a challenge match.’ 

“The result wasn’t pretty, but, yeah, it probably made us wake up, sit up, and take notice that this is the level that these guys are operating at that we need to get to.”

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mark-cronin-scores-a-goal Mark Cronin bags Cork's second goal in the All-Ireland U20 final. Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

The day before that game, Martin, Stephen Cronin, Kerrigan and Luke Connolly all started for the Rebels in their final Super 8s game against Roscommon, which they lost by 4-9 to 3-9. 24 hours earlier, Cronin scored 1-3 for the Cork U20s in their All-Ireland final win over Dublin.

Having agreed with management weeks earlier to attend the challenge match, the county players were in Clonmel to line out with the club.

Kerrigan explains: “We finished up with Cork on the August Bank Holiday on the Sunday. 

“And we had a challenge game on the Monday up the country, and we all travelled up and played. Less than 24 hours (after the inter-county season ended) and we were playing with the club. Two weeks after that, we were playing championship. We train hard, and we haven’t let off. 

“We said a few weeks earlier, ‘Yeah we’ll go’.

“And then we were having a few pints after the Roscommon game…but you don’t want to go back on your word. We went up, played the game and I was fairly tired afterwards.”

There’s no great secret to Nemo’s success and that story typifies the sort of commitment the club expect from their Cork players.

“There’s probably an unwritten rule if you’re a county player, you have to come back to watch training, be at the league games, be at the challenge games. When that happens, you’ll fit seamlessly into the style of play come championship.

“You’re not a bonus player coming back who’s expected to carry a burden. If you’re a county player, that’s great. All the pressure isn’t on you.”

Commercials are no strangers to great dedication either. Star forward Quinlivan has put his plans to head off travelling on hold until after the conclusion of their club campaign.

“I hope he does have to delay them,” laughs Kennedy.

“I have absolutely no sympathy for him! Yeah, look, it’s probably been on Michael’s mind for a couple of years. 

“Look, I think he’s well entitled to and enjoy himself for the year. He’s going travelling with his girlfriend and is in for a great year but I’m hoping he has to delay it until the end of January maybe.” 

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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