Clare 2-20 Cork 0-18
By Brendan Larkin
THE adage that goals win matches rang true at Páirc Uí Rinn on Saturday where Clare scored two in two minutes to kill off the Cork challenge in a highly entertaining NHL game.
Cork did have chances of goals, but two excellent saves by Clare goalkeeper Ger O’Connell denied Ben O’Connor and Diarmuid O’Sullivan from penalties late in the game.
Clare boss Anthony Daly wasn’t to know at the time, but the eight-point victory made little difference as both Waterford and Galway made it to the league final.
Assessing the match, Daly said it was important to beat Cork, particularly on home soil. "We had beaten Galway and Tipperary and it was nice to add the Cork scalp to that," he said.
"Cork really put it up to us but the introduction of a couple of fresh legs and pulling Davie Forde back as an extra midfielder worked for us."
Cork fielded an experimental side which acquitted itself well, and selector John Allen agreed that a number of players did themselves no harm at all in terms of winning a place on the panel for the championship.
"Among the positives was the excellence of John Anderson at wing forward, Niall McCarthy in the half forward line and Paul Tierney, who hit two excellent points from midfield." Asked what he felt turned the game for Clare, Allen said that possibly Cork tired in the closing minutes. "We haven’t trained together because of club commitments. We haven’t done any serious championship training as a result. It’s clear that Clare have. The county hurling championships get under way over the May Bank Holiday weekend, so the first time we’ll have all the players together as a group will be the week of the championship game against Kerry. That's simply not good enough."
With Sarsfields’ Kieran Murphy sparkling at corner-forward, the home side were more than a match for Clare, and matched the visitors point for point to be level at 0-6 apiece after 25 minutes.
Tony Griffin posed a lot of problems for the Cork defence with his pace and strength and after he edged his side in front with a great point, Clare took a strong grip and were well worth their 0-11 to 0-9 half-time lead.
Griffin and Gilligan added two quick points on the resumption and only a great save by goalkeeper Paul Morrissey denied Gilligan a goal as Clare tightened their grip. Cork switched Ben O’Connor to centre forward and he quickly made an immediate impact. The Cork captain had the deficit down to two points with a brace before the Leesiders won a penalty after Kieran Murphy wastaken down. Credit to Clare keeper Ger O’Connell, who denied O’Connor. Undeterred Cork continued to press and as the tension mounted, they hit over four points without reply to lead 0-18 to 0-15 with 10 minutes to go.
Clare sprung Frank Lohan and he made an immediate impression creating a goal chance for substitute Daithí O’Connell who took it well to tie the match for the sixth time. Clare were back for their second goal on the puck out, when Niall Gilligan availed of hesitancy in the Cork defence to flash home the goal. It was all Clare from there to the finish. Cork did win a second penalty but Diarmuid O’Sullivan was denied a goal by another fine save by the Clare net minder.
Scorers: Clare: N. Gilligan 1-8 (0-6 frees); D. O’Connell 1-1; S. McMahon (0-2 frees, 0-1 65), T. Griffin 0-3 each; C. Lynch 0-2; J. O’Connor, F. Lohan, A. Markham 0-1 each. Cork: B. O’Connor 0-6 (0-3 frees, 0-2 65s); N. McCarthy, P. Tierney, J. Anderson, J. Deane, K. Murphy (Sars) 0-2 each; T. McCarthy, G. Callanan 0-1 each.
CLARE: G. O’Connell; B. Quinn, B. O’Connell, G. O’Grady; D. Hoey, S. McMahon, G. Quinn; O. Baker, D. McMahon; J. O’Connor, C. Lynch, T. Griffin; N. Gilligan, A. Markham, D. Forde. Subs. B. Lynch for Quinn; F. Lohan for O’Connor; D. O’Connell for D. McMahon.
CORK: P. Morrissey; B. Murphy, J. Browne, C. O’Connor; I. Kelleher, D. O’Sullivan, M. Prendergast; P. Tierney, G. Callanan; J., Anderson, N. McCarthy, T. McCarthy; K. Murphy (Sars),. J. Deane, B. O’Connor. Subs. R. Curran for C. O’Connor; T. Kenny for Kelleher.
Referee: E. Morris (Dublin).