Aherne goal proves key as Rebels get back on track

Clare’s Michael Garry stretches in a bid to block Cork’s Conor Corbett in last night’s Munster MFC semi-final at Cusack Park, Ennis. Picture: Eamon Ward

Cork 3-9 - 0-14 Clare

The Cork minor footballers got their Munster campaign back on track with this hard-earned victory yesterday evening.

Having been at the end of a 16-point hammering by Kerry last week, the visitors to Ennis needed a win to keep alive their championship involvement. A draw wouldn’t have seen Cork eliminated, but would have left them requiring a favour from Kerry to ensure their progression to the provincial decider.

In the end, both of the two points on offer were taken back down the road to Cork and central to their first victory of the summer was Shane Aherne’s 58th-minute goal, the second-half sub rolling the ball into the bottom right corner of Oisin O’Loughlin’s goal after being put through by Conor Corbett.

Cork’s third goal of the evening put them 3-7 to 0-11 clear and, when the subsequent restart went array from a Clare perspective, Corbett was on hand to stretch the visitors six clear.

The home side, to their credit, didn’t throw in the towel and knocked over three in quick succession — Dara Nagle, Shane Meehan (free), and Jamie Stack (free) the providers — to leave a goa

l between them with two minutes of injury-time remaining. The green flag which Clare required was not located, putting a significant dent in their bid to reach a third successive Munster minor final.

Clare must take down Kerry on the latter’s home patch this day week if they’re to prevent a Cork-Kerry Munster final, but when you consider that Kerry haven’t lost a minor championship game since the summer of 2013, this would seem an incredibly tall order for Dermot Coughlan’s young side.

Clare, who came into the game off the back of an impressive Phase 1 campaign, were the better side in the opening half, but had little to show for it at the break, as the sides were deadlocked at 1-4 to 0-7. Banner full-forward Shane Meehan was proving near untouchable, winning each of the three frees he converted. His pace had led to Cork players Adam Walsh-Murphy and Neil Lordan picking up yellow cards.

Cork’s opening goal was a well-worked move involving Keith O’Driscoll and Corbett, and finished by Ryan O’Donovan. O’Driscoll was provider-turned-finisher for Cork’s second major on 41 minutes, blasting the ball high into the roof of the net to leave the scoreboard reading 2-5 to 0-8.

The hosts, through Conor Hassett, Meehan and Stack, pared the margin back to the minimum, but their failure to put away either of the second-half goal chances they created, one of which was well stopped by Rebel keeper Aaron O’Brien, ultimately, cost them victory. Cork, barring an upset in the Kingdom next week, look sound for a first Munster minor final appearance since 2016.

Scorers for Cork: R O’Donovan (1-2, 0-1 free); K O’Driscoll (1-1); S Aherne (1-0); C Corbett (0-3, 0-1 free); H Murphy, P Campbell, J Cahalane (0-1 each).

Scorers for Clare: S Meehan (0-6, 0-5 frees); J Stack (0-4, 0-2 frees, 0-1 ‘45); D Nagle (0-2); D Fahy, C Hassett (0-1 each).

CORK:

A O’Brien (Mitchelstown); D Peet (Clonakilty), N Jordan (Ballinora), J O’Shea (Urhan); D Cashman (Millstreet), S Andrews (Shamrocks), D Lenihan (Castlemagner); J Lawton (Argideen Rangers), E Nash (Douglas); A Walsh-Murphy (Valley Rovers), P Campbell (Nemo Rangers), H Murphy (Éire Óg); R O’Donovan (Barryroe), K O’Driscoll (Gabriel Rangers), C Corbett (Clyda Rovers).

Subs: T O’Donoghue (Carrignavar) for Peet (25 mins); S Aherne (Douglas) for Nash (bc, 35); J Cahalane (Castlehaven) for O’Donovan (38); A O’Hare (Douglas) for Walsh-Murphy (43, inj); M Browne (Newmarket) for Linehan (56); D Collins (Glengarriffe) for O’Driscoll (65).

CLARE:

O O’Loughlin (St Breckan’s); T Lillis (Doonbeg), M Garry (Cooraclare), C McMahon (Ennistymon); C McGroary (Corofin), A Killeen (St Joseph’s Doora-Barefield), M Reidy (Shannon Gaels); E Rouine (Ennistymon), B Rouine (Ennistymon); C Hassett (Kildysart), D Fahy (Ennistymon), D Nagle (St Joseph’s Doora-Barefield); E Talty (St Joseph’s Doora-Barefield), S Meehan (Banner), J Stack (St Breckan’s).

Subs: T Meenaghan (The Banner) for Talty (57); P Doherty (St Breckan’s) for B Rouine (62, bc).

Referee: B Griffin (Kerry).

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