Clare go the extra to send Cork crashing

Clare 0-31 Cork 2-23
Demotion for Cork after this two-point loss to Clare in an extra-time high-scoring and ultimately championship intensity Division 1A relegation final in the windswept Gaelic Grounds yesterday and relief for Clare as they preserve their elite status for another year.

Cork have no-one but themselves to blame either, because twice in the second half of normal time, after each of their two goals, victory was in their own hands.

The first occasion was in the 53rd minute, full-forward Luke O’Farrell finding the net from the rebound, after Clare keeper Patrick Kelly had denied Conor Lehane, to put Cork five points clear (1-16 to 0-14). Clare recovered from that, went on a powerful and what looked like a match-winning charge, outscored Cork seven points to one to lead by one with time running out.

Then came Cork’s second goal, outstanding captain Pa Cronin beating Brendan Bugler with a fine catch on the edge of the square then booting to the net. Cork now two points clear, entering the two minutes of signalled additional time.

Again Clare closed, again Cork failed to hold on, and the game went to extra-time. A worrying sign surely for Cork selector Kieran Kingston; worrying also was the fact Clare had completely dominated possession in the second-half, won the lions’ share of the puckouts but cost themselves through poor shooting, 10 wides in that half.

“A lot of those shots were taken under pressure, forced wides,” Kieran pointed out. “We weren’t concerned about that, we felt the game was there for the taking.”

The problem for Cork in that second-half was that Clare were far more tigerish around the ball, around the puckouts especially.

“They hit the breaks a bit better than we did, to be fair to them. They used that tactic very well throughout the league, against Kilkenny and others, on their own puckouts and on the opposition’s, that’s something they have obviously worked on, and they hit the break a lot.

“The most disappointing thing for us in normal time, when we took the lead after getting the goal we should have held on, we should have driven on — unfortunately we didn’t.”

In that extra-time however, Clare would make no mistake. Their profligacy in front of the posts would continue but so would their all-round dominance. Cork keeper Anthony Nash was forced into a brilliant point-blank save from young sub Peter Duggan as all over the field Clare took control.

The precocious full-back trio of Domhnall O’Dononvan, David McInerney and Seadna Morey grew into the game, Brendan Bugler and Patrick O’Connor took control on the wings while centre-back and captain Patrick Donnellan was magnificent throughout.

The Clare second half midfield pairing of Tony Kelly and Colm Galvin contributed an endless supply of ball but also contributed handsomely on the scoreboard (Kelly ended with six points from play, Galvin an invaluable three). Up front, threat in every area, rangy Darach Honan and powerful John Conlon especially dangerous. Those who wondered about Clare’s strength in depth also got an answer as subs Conor McGrath, Peter Duggan and Cathal McInerney all caught the eye.

And yet, and yet, all that being said, Cork would have tied this game at the death had Cathal Naughton’s last-second goal-bound pile-driver not been deflected over the bar by the perfectly placed Bugler. Strange game, truly.

“Not the result we wanted,” said a forlorn Kingston, “but the format of the league wasn’t conducive to either ourselves or Clare, no matter who won today.

“It was probably a very entertaining game for the supporters, scores missed on both sides that on another day might have gone over. We felt we needed to use our panel as best we could. Unfortunately we were forced to line out without a few players, Shane O’Neill broke down on Thursday night which wasn’t ideal.

“Saying that, the effort from everyone was excellent, we have no complaints about that.

“We’re very disappointed, of course, but we have to get on with it, it’s all about the 23rd of June now [Munster championship semi-final against the winners of Clare/Waterford].”

As for Clare manager Davy Fitzgerald — joy yes, but hardly unconfined.

“It’s a good win. We beat Cork in a relegation play-off – that’s it. We’re not going to get carried away by it.

“We won’t beat the likes of Waterford with so many wides. Cork could just as easily have won that game.

“We know there’s still a long road to go.”

Scorers for Clare: Colin Ryan 0-10 (6f), T Kelly 0-6, J Conlon 0-4, C Galvin 0-3, D Honan, C McGrath 0-2 each, P Kelly (f), F Lynch, P Collins and C McInerney, 0-1 each.

Scorers for Cork: P Horgan 0-11 (6f, 1 65), P Cronin 1-3, L O’Farrell 1-2, C Naughton 0-2, C O’Sullivan, D Kearney, C Lehane, S Moylan and C McCarthy 0-1 each.

Clare: P Kelly; D O’Donovan, D McInerney, S Morey; B Bugler, P Donnellan (c), P O’Connor; C Galvin, Conor Ryan; J Conlon, T Kelly, Colin Ryan; S O’Donnell, D Honan, P Collins.

Subs for Clare: C McGrath for Conor Ryan (26), P Duggan for Collins (60), C McInerney for O’Donnell (70+1), J Clancy for Honan (inj. 80), F Lynch for Duggan (85), S O’Donnell for Clancy (90).

Cork: A Nash; K Murphy, B Murphy, C O’Sullivan; S White, C Joyce, W Egan; L McLoughlin, D Kearney; C Lehane, P O’Sullivan, P Cronin (c); S Moylan, L O’Farrell, P Horgan.

Subs for Cork: T Kenny for Kearney (53), C McCarthy for Moylan (60), C Spillane for K Murphy (62), C Naughton for White (67), M Walsh for McLoughlin (inj 78), B Hartnett for P O’Sullivan (86), P O’Brien for Lehane (86).

Referee: J McGrath (Westmeath).

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