Commercials an advertisement for underdogs against Crokes
So heavily stacked are the odds against Clonmel Commercials in Sunday’s Munster club football semi-final manager Philly Ryan has admitted it might take a “freak result” to see them through.
“And that’s not just me trying to play down our chances,” says Ryan, who takes his Tipperary champions into the forbidding den of Dr Crokes of Killarney.
Clonmel have just won back the county title for the first time since 2002 – beating defending champions Thomas McDonaghs in the final – but only one Tipperary club has managed to win a game in the Munster football championship in all the years since.
Dr Crokes, meanwhile, have now won three Kerry titles in succession, are on course to defend their Munster title, and boast several intercounty stars, including Colm “Gooch” Cooper.
“We’d be well aware of all that,” adds Ryan, now in his fourth year in charge of Clonmel, and before that enjoyed a long career as Tipperary goalkeeper.
“It’s a mammoth task, and we’re under absolutely no illusion about the challenge we face on Sunday. At the same time it’s a game we’re looking forward too.
“We’re certainly under no pressure, and we just want to express ourselves, play to our strengths, and we’d be hopeful of that. Of course you always get the occasional freak result around this time of year.”
Against that backdrop, however, have come reports that one of Clonmel’s emerging talents, Coleman Kennedy, has opted to play with the Cork City under-19 team this Sunday, having also lined out for them in recent weeks.
Clonmel will clearly need all first-choice players available, as they look to improve on the poor record of Tipperary clubs in Munster, the last victory being Aherlow’s defeat of Limerick champions Fr Casey’s, back in 2006.
Ryan, in the meantime, has also managed the Tipperary minor footballers, and several players from the All-Ireland minor success in 2011 have made the step up with Clonmel this year, including Kennedy and forward Michael Quinlivan.
“I think there has been a lot of good work done at underage,” adds Ryan, “and that minor talent is coming through.
“Maybe they were just a little young last year, but are stepping up to the grade now. We’re certainly delighted to have won back the Tipperary title.”
Dr Crokes have several other advantages, including home turf, and the quarter-final win over Clare champions Kilmurray-Ibrickane – although they were pressed hard there, and only emerged by a point: “But then Kilmurray have been on the scene for a while now,” says Ryan.
“Conditions in Quilty weren’t great, but fair play to Dr Corkes, they still got a good run at them early on, then held on.”
When Clonmel last played in Munster, in 2002, they were beaten first time out by Limerick champions Monaleen.
Sunday’s second Munster club football semi-final sees Cork champions Castlehaven facing Stradbally from Waterford, in Clonakilty. It marks Castlehaven’s first venture in the Munster championship since 2003.
Stradbally are bidding to reach the Munster final for the first time since 2004, after winning the county title in a replayed final last Sunday, beating The Nire by a point.
Elsewhere, former Mayo footballer Billy Joe Padden has conceded his intercounty career is over, having failed to make the panel of new manager Paul Grimley.
Padden represented Mayo at all levels before transferring to Armagh in 2010, following his club move to Carrickruppen.