Munster Club Football Semi-Final: Miltown St Joseph’s v Clonmel Commercials
After a dogged battle with Rathgormack last weekend, the Clare champions must turn around and do it all over again this Sunday when Tipperary kingpins Clonmel Commercials come to West Clare.
There was a marked difference in the manner of victory for both sides last weekend, as the Premier outfit ran riot without ever really breaking sweat in their county final win over JK Bracken’s en route to a 3-19 to 0-7. On the other hand, Miltown had to go to the well to eventually see off Rathgormack with the question now being how much that effort took out of the tank, and how many times they will need to use the natural recovery therapy offered by the ocean this week. The energy it took to grind out the win and the short turnaround between games will be a concern, while the loss of Eoin Curtin to an ankle injury means that a consistent option from the bench throughout this season is now gone. The depth of the squad will be tested as a result, while the fact that some substitutes were called on to go back on having already been taken off may lead to some questions marks in that respect.
That being said, the manner in which they ground out the victory was encouraging with big players stepping up to the plate at critical junctures. Cormac Murray, Eoin Cleary and Kieran Malone all took on the responsibility of taking on those vital kicks, while the assuredness provided by Conor Cleary, Gordon Kelly and Sean O’Brien meant the steady hands were there when the nervy period arrived. They will need plenty more of that on Sunday if they are to prevail, but they will also need to do a lot more damage on the scoreboard if they are to gain revenge on Commercials.
These sides met at this stage of the championship back in 2015 but that is where the comparisons stop. This Miltown team have since developed into a major force in Clare club football while their march to last year’s provincial decider marked another step in their overall journey. The experience gained over the last few years has seem them put county titles back to back, but this Sunday is arguably the biggest test they have faced along the way. To score 3-19 is a serious feat at any stage but for Commercials to do it in a county final, and at this time of year, will have alarm bells ringing around Hennessey Park. All-Star forward Michael Quinlivan is the obvious threat up front while Jack Kennedy and Seamus Kennedy will be key figures in the middle third, while the strength in depth of the Clonmel panel was exemplified by the fact that two goals came from the bench last weekend. All bar four players on the starting 15 got on the scoresheet in that win with only the goalkeeper and full-back line not contributing to the cause.
If Miltown are to make it successive final appearances, they are going to need to take every scoring chance that comes their way. Too many of those opportunities were left behind them last weekend and there is no question that they will be punished if that trend is repeated. Having the game at home is an obvious bonus, but the on-field display is what will count. They will need everyone at the height of their powers and everyone hitting their own personal and collective targets if they are going to win. It is going to take a season’s best performance to give them a fighting chance, and if they can produce that, it should be enough to see them over the line. Anything less than that simply will not do.