WHEN Nemo Rangers defeated Kerins O’Rahillys in the 2008 Munster quarter-final, Dromcollogher-Broadford interpreted the result as more of a boon than a bust.
Nemo is normally the draw from hell. Beating O’Rahillys by six points further enhanced their status as red-hot favourites but when the Limerick champions added and subtracted the fractions, they felt that a clash against Nemo would probably be a more manageable equation to balance.
Although they’d drawn with O’Rahillys in a challenge match a few weeks earlier, Kerry’s Tommy Walsh had scored three goals and Drom-Broadford still weren’t sure if they’d the guns to silence him. Their style was more suited to taking on Nemo, while their trainer at the time, Ned English, had enough scouting info on the Cork side to fill a book; he had trained Duhallow sides that had twice been beaten by Nemo in the Cork championship over the previous three seasons.
Ever since they won that 2008 Limerick county title, Drom-Broadford had Nemo in their sights and their preparations had gone so well that they were confident of sacking Munster club football’s citadel.
A bookmaker just across the border in Cork was offering odds of 13/2 and the group gratefully accepted them. The handicap had Drom-Broadford at six points, but the Limerick side weren’t focused on the handicap; they staked everything on the win. And they landed a windfall of €13,000.
Once Drom-Broadford had beaten Nemo, they knew that anything was possible; two weeks later, the Limerick side went on to win a historic first Munster title, beating Clare’s Kilmurry-Ibrickane in the final.
That win against Nemo though, represented so much more than just a victory for the underdogs – because Nemo normally don’t lose Munster club matches. Drom-Broadford were just the third team in Munster to defeat Nemo in 17 Munster club campaigns.
The result was all the more surprising again considering that Nemo were reigning Munster champions, and they’d only narrowly lost the All-Ireland club final to St Vincent’s the previous March. It may have been Nemo’s third All-Ireland club final defeat of the decade but five provincial titles over the previous seven years underlined their status as Munster’s superpower.
Anytime Nemo lost in Munster, it was considered a shock, no matter who they played, but that Drom-Broadford defeat was a semi-final. And Nemo didn’t lose Munster finals.
Their only defeat at that stage of the competition came in the 1977 final, when they were beaten by a Thomond College team of All-Stars. And Nemo responded to that defeat by going on to win three of the next six All-Ireland club titles.
Nemo just didn’t lose Munster finals. And then, in 2015, they did so in the most dramatic fashion imaginable. Nemo looked to have another title in the bag when Michael Quinlivan secured a historic victory for Clonmel Commercials from a goal with effectively the last kick.
When Tomás Ó Sé spoke about the experience a couple of days later, he graphically described how concussive the moment was.
“I was thinking back all week and I have never been sucker-punched like that before,” Ó Sé remarked. “I was stunned, shell-shocked. I was stunned for 15 minutes after the game. It was literally the last second and there is no coming back from that. It was freakish what happened.”
That Clonmel side went on to prove just how good they were. They led Ballyboden St Enda’s by three points with five minutes remaining in the All-Ireland club semi-final the following February. Ballyboden were reduced to 14 men by that stage but they summoned the resolve to hit three late points and take the match to extra-time. And four weeks later, Ballyboden went on to easily defeat Castlebar Mitchels in the All-Ireland final.
Clonmel Commercials relinquished their Tipperary title that season but when they regained it again in 2017, they showed their pedigree in Munster when rattling Dr Crokes in the semi-final. Crokes eventually powered home with a late surge but if Commercials had taken a couple of first-half goal chances, they could have led at the break by seven points.
Clonmel showed that steel again in the semi-final two weeks ago when coming from behind late on to defeat a good Miltown-Malbay team, in west Clare.
Roared on by a raucous home crowd, Miltown-Malbay were the better team for the majority of the match. They led by 0-7 to 0-5 by the 55th minute but, Commercials stubbornly refused to yield to what looked like an inevitable outcome.
When Seamus Kennedy put Clonmel ahead with a fine score from 40 metres as the clock ticked towards 60 minutes, it was the first time that Clonmel led in the match. Deep in stoppage time, Jack Kennedy landed the insurance point.
Their Munster win four years ago is Tipperary’s only Munster club title but, if any team was likely to make that breakthrough, it’s no surprise that it was Commercials; they had contested four finals prior to 2015; they had been hugely competitive in all but one of those finals, the 1994 decider, when Castlehaven beat them by 13 points.
Quinlivan is obviously their marquee name but this team is loaded with experience, and more importantly, players with Munster and All-Ireland medals. Kennedy won an All-Ireland hurling title with Tipperary this year but many of his team-mates have Munster minor and Munster U21 football medals.
Seven of this panel have All-Ireland minor football medals. Their manager, Charlie McGeever, guided Tipp to the 2015 All-Ireland minor football final. Most of this Clonmel panel have been together since U14, which makes them a tighter group than most club teams.
Nemo rightly go into tomorrow’s Munster club final as favourites. Nemo usually don’t lose provincial finals but, with the hurt of 2015 driving them on, they’ll be hell-bent on ensuring that they get the job done against Clonmel this time around.