In this week’s column, Martin Kiely looks back on Newcastle West’s Munster Club SFC quarter-final loss.
It looked like Newcastle West had advanced to the Munster Club SFC semi final with just five minutes left in the game in Clonmel last Sunday.
It’s a day that will linger long in the minds of players and management because they were good enough to get a result in this encounter. This game won’t be remembered as a classic contest but that can often be the nature of such games. One would have expected the home team support to have outnumbered the travelling club but it appeared that Newcastlewest matched what was a smaller crowd than was expected.
Clonmel Sports Grounds has the perfect setting for games like this. From the stands the two hospitals hold centre court and look down onto the pitch. The evidence of winter was everywhere to be seen on the ground but in reality the opening day in November matched what one would expect in summer. Two hours before the game I noticed many great supporters of the Newcastle West club. This was a proud day for them and they felt they had a great chance. It has taken longer than it should have for Newcastle West to enter this stage. They have come close in recent years in Limerick but a major change of attitude has played a key part in the club’s progress this year.
They were on the verge of victory last Sunday but they appeared to show a lack of maturity in the closing stages of this game. They had played a defensive game for most of this battle but when it was needed most in the dying minutes it was not applied. Clonmel Commercials came with a late surge and finished the stronger and fitter unit.
They have a lot of young players and like most of the games they played in the Tipperary championship it was the last quarter that they expressed themselves most. Stephen Kelly had a massive second half for Newcastle West. He showed the way when it seemed Clonmel Commercials were making real progress. Kicking three second half points Kelly displayed much of the craft we know him to have.
He might not have the gears he once had but his touch and skills have not left him. When he kicked a huge free from 50 metres with just five minutes left in the game it looked like Newcastle West were on their way to the next round of the Munster Club.
The last five minutes will be the most spoken about in this contest but it was in the opening half that Newcastle West lost this game. They had the ideal start. Steven Brosnan had the opening point and then Jamie Lee was fast off the mark to punch home a goal. All that happened inside three minutes but sadly they would score no more in the first half. They had some great chances of points and instead of taking the game to Clonmel Commercials they put too many men behind the ball.
That first half was hard to watch. Hand pass after hand pass and the ball was pushed from one sideline to the other. It took two teams to play this type of football as the match was now contested between the two 45s. Newcastle West kicked four wides in a row and this would go on to hurt them later. Clonmel Commercials only managed three points in the first half but they did show us glimpses of what they could do.
The second half was played at a better pace. As time ticked on both teams began to play football and abandon their defensive tactics that had led to a low quality game. Of course this type of play is standard fare in the modern game. Newcastle West won a lot of possession in the second half and they were starting to test the defence of Clonmel Commercials. This was a game of tight margins and every opportunity needed to be taken. I liked the attitude of the Newcastle West players - they were honest and hardworking. They have learned lessons. In the past they were prone to getting excited and losing focus. That element was not visible this year and they got results for it. As a team they left everything on the field last Sunday. They could give no more. Paul Hannan kicked a rasping shot off the post on the call of normal time. It was rough justice.
In fairness to Clonmel Commercials they produced it when it mattered most. Six points in the last six minutes required a massive effort but they showed maturity and composure under pressure.
So many of the Newcastle West team played well. I was very impressed by Michael O’Keeffe at corner back. This lad has good hands and good feet, he has something to offer Limerick. Stephen Nix worked very hard at centre back. Others like James Kelly and Jamie Lee also played well while Ian Corbett hoovered up around midfield.
As a club they will be disappointed to lose last Sunday but they can build from their efforts of this year. They have a good crop of young players on the way and some of them will be required to take this team to the next level.
Mike Quilligan has given great service to his club, they have made progress and he knows that. Antoin McFadden as coach and trainer has made an impact and it would be important for the ongoing development of the club that he is kept on board. Like others before them Newcastle West lost last Sunday but there is no doubt that many more good days lie ahead.