WHEN it comes to the final referee, there is only one moment that counts: at the final whistle.
once was this old truth more appropriate than at Semple Stadium, when Loughmore-Castleiney’s 15e Tipperary senior football title – and its first since 2016 – in a truly breathtaking way.
This incredible double club had fallen behind from the start of the game to stoppage time… but the 61 . by John McGrathNS minute goal broke Clonmel Commercials just as they appeared to have one hand on the cup.
Jason Lonergan answered with his third point of the game, but when Clonmel tried to force extra time in the last move of the game, they were turned around. Derek O’Mahoney blew full time seconds later, causing scenes of wild celebration among the Loughmore contingent in a crowd of 2,207.
What made this win even more special was the fact that last year’s winners had lost both senior finals and then drew this year’s pitcher last Sunday.
Whatever happens in that repeat with Thurles Sarsfields, they won’t end 2021 empty-handed.
The inevitable pre-match worry for the 9/4 underdogs was whether their week-on-week schedule, soccer one week, crouching the next, would finally catch up to a team that started with eight of the team lined up for the national anthem against Thurles a week ago.
After a whirlwind opening from Clonmel, those concerns seemed perfectly justified. From the outside, the series of speed demons of the favorites threatened chaos and they were already 1-2 to no lead in the fifth minute.
Sean O’Connor set his own free in their opener and then, in a prelude to his hugely influential first half, Michael Quinlivan Colman fed Kennedy for another.
Shortly after, it was Kennedy and advancing fullback Liam Ryan’s turn to combine before releasing Quinlivan, who burst through a tackle sending a slick low finish past Shane Hennessy.
But if Loughmore privately feared the worst, it didn’t come out. They had narrowed the deficit to a goal at the waterbreak and although Jason Lonergan riposted with a quickfire brace, they scored four of the last five points, leaving a deficit of just 1-5 to 0-6 at the break.
Admittedly, they were initially dependent on a hat-trick from Conor Ryan frees and only scored in the 24e minute, via John McGrath; but they gradually began to find space, even in an overcrowded Clonmel defense.
As the second half progressed, Clonmel’s lead grew to four points at some point in the third quarter, but they just couldn’t kill the tireless double specialists.
Perhaps the watershed arrived with about ten minutes of normal time left. First of all, Ross Peters failed to get a good connection on a direct scoring opportunity for Clonmel, who lost to Séamus Kennedy shortly after.
Loughmore was down by two at the time, but Liam McGrath had narrowed the lead to a single tie as the game came into stoppage time when they had the chance to finally level the score. Conor Ryan, who already scored the 0-7, saw his feeling fail, but Clomnel lost possession as they tried to clear the ball. Ciaran McGrath and Liam McGrath then combined to create the opportunity for their namesake John, who buried a low-angle shot at the net.
Shortly after, the Tipp pitcher and goalscorer was named Man of the Match.
SCORERS – Loughmore-Castleiney: C Ryan 0-7 (5f), J McGrath 1-2 (1f), E Connolly, E Sweeney, L McGrath 0-1 each. Clonmel Commercials: M Quinlivan 1-0, J Lonergan 0-3, S O’Connor (1f, 1 sb), K Fahey 0-2 each, Colman Kennedy, P Looram, C Deely, J Peters 0-1 each.
LOUGHMORE-CASTLEINEY – S Hennedy; L Egan, J Hennessy, W Eviston; J Ryan, E Meagher, T Maher; L Treacy, E Connolly; L McGrath, J McGrath, N McGrath; C Ryan, A McGrath, C McGrath. Subs: E Sweeney for Conor McGrath (ht), Ciaran McGrath for Connolly (43), B McGrath for Meagher (54), T McGrath for A McGrath (62).
CLONMEL COMMERCIALS – M O’Reilly; J Aherne, L Ryan, C Cannon; J Peters, K Fahey, P Looram; Conal Kennedy, S Kennedy; J Kennedy, M Quinlivan, Colman Kennedy; J Lonergan, S O’Connor, R Peters. Subs: M Murphy for Aherne (29), C Deely for J Kennedy (ht), P McGarry for O’Connor (57), K Harney for R Peters (57).
REF – D O’Mahoney (Ardfinnan)