Newcastle West find something extra as Clonmel fail to play their cards right

Ruadhan O’Connor’s brilliant late equaliser helps underdogs become first Limerick team in Munster final since 2008

Munster SFC semi-final (after extra time): Newcastle West (Limerick) 1-16 Clonmel Commericals (Tipperary) 1-11

Newcastle West arrived in Thurles as outsiders against Clonmel but succeeded in turning the Tipp champions’ world from the glorious Techincolor of the quarter-final win against Nemo Rangers into a stark black and white.

An absorbing contest ended up a little misrepresented by the comparatively comfortable winning margin after extra time. During the initial hour’s contest, there had been a point or less in the margin for all but 12 minutes of play.

Clonmel were unable to hit the sustained high notes of their previous outing but still had enough opportunity to win the match and took the lead in injury-time, 1-10 to 0-12 after Séamus Kennedy, who pushed up to do his level best to steer the ship home, set up Kevin Fahey for a well-finished point.


Fahey and Ciarán Cannon would end the 60 minutes in the sin bin but in a morality play of crime not paying, neither of their cynical fouls prevented Newcastle from equalising, as Cork referee turned timelord, David Murnane, allowed play to continue well in excess of the signalled five minutes.

Ruadhan O’Connor kicked the equaliser after what appeared to be – with the clock in the red – a death-defying sequence of hand-passes.

It wasn’t immediately obvious but Clonmel’s goose was cooked. The absence of the black-carded players didn’t have an immediate impact but no sooner had they re-appeared just before half-time in extra time than the Limerick champions struck for the goal that essentially decided the match.

Iain Corbett, playing a captain’s role, pushed forward and picked out the run of centrefielder Emmet Rigter and he calmly stuck it past Michael O’Reilly to turn the wafer-thin 0-14 to 1-10 lead into a four-point barricade.

Winning manager Jimmy Lee said afterwards that once they got to extra time, he was confident.

“In fairness to the lads, they have never given up all year. In our own county championship, we were hard pressed by Abbeyfeale, Monaleen and Adare so we were used to it. Once we got there, I was very happy at that stage because I knew we had that capability.”

Newcastle West came with a plan to counter the favourites’ strengths. They weren’t as loose as Nemo and that had two impacts. One, they crewed up at the back and tackled like demons, causing for example the first three attacks of the second half – as Clonmel tried to build on an interval lead – to be turned over after laborious build-up. Two, as they were seldom committing to all-out attack, Clonmel never had the opportunity to counter at pace and expose goal opportunities.

It didn’t all go to plan, however. The Tipperary champions devoured the opposition kick-outs with Jack Kennedy having a field day – literally. Newcastle’s defence struggled at times with running attacks but ultimately the match was decided on economy.

The winners ended the afternoon with three wides; Clonmel managed 13.

Players who had shone in Cork weren’t able to produce the same wattage consistently. Menacing full forward Seán O’Connor did come up with 1-2, 1-1 during the team’s only purple patch just before half-time when they turned a three-point deficit into a 1-4 to 0-5 lead in space of two minutes.

Even then, the Limerick champions hit back with a point from the excellent Diarmuid Kelly to keep it tight.

All Star nomination at wing back Cian Sheehan had a terrific match, scoring three points from play and using his engine and athleticism in attack to maintain pressure.

Having countered the favourites’ obvious strengths, Newcastle played to their own: their fitness and mobility on a quality playing surface, their accuracy and the range of players who made an impact, for instance Eoin Hurley whose six points included three in extra time to clamp shut the outcome.

Clonmel lost a third player to the bin when Tadhg Condon saw black in the 73rd minute.

“Look it’s an extremely good surface,” said Lee. “With the result, you have to be extremely happy. With that bunch of young lads, you’d have to be extremely proud of them.”

Clonmel manager Tommy Morrissey was puzzled by the extent of injury-time but took it on the chin.

“Yeah, it definitely was over what was said was going to be played so it was frustrating because they ultimately got a score with the last kick of that time. In hindsight, we’re disappointed with it but the referee makes the decisions on the day. Sometimes they go with you. Sometimes they go against you and that’s life. He definitely wasn’t the reason we lost the game.”

Newcastle West will play Kerins O’Rahilly’s of Kerry in the final.

Newcastle West: M Quilligan; M O’Keeffe, D O’Doherty, B O’Sullivan (0-1); R O’Connor (0-1), J Kelly, B Foley; I Corbett (0-1), E Rigter (1-1); C Sheehan (0-3), D Kelly (0-3, 1f), S Murphy; S Stack, M McMahon, E Hurley (0-6 3f 1m). Subs: S Hurley for O’Donovan (39 mins), A Neville for J Kelly (48 mins), T Quilligan for Stack (56 mins), B Hurley for Murphy (63 mins), S Brosnan for Rigter (80 mins).

Clonmel Commercials: M O’Reilly; J Morris, S Kennedy, J Peters (capt); T Condon, K Fahey (0-1), P Looram; M Quinlivan (0-2), C Kennedy; C Deely (0-1), R Peters, J Kennedy (0-2f); J Lonergan (0-3 1f), Colman Kennedy, S O’ Connor (1-2). Subs: P McGarry for Colman Kennedy; A Matassa for R Peters (52 mins), C Cannon for J Peters, C Smith for Deely (both 60 mins), C McGeever for Smith (70 mins).

Referee: D Murnane (Cork).

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times