Late rally sees Clare claim first McGrath Cup since 2008

Late rally sees Clare claim first McGrath Cup since 2008
Cian O'Dea of Clare in action against John O'Rourke of Cork during the McGrath Cup Final match between Cork and Clare at Hennessy Park in Miltown Malbay, Co. Clare. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

Clare 1-9 - 0-9 Cork

A flurry of late points saw Clare crowned McGrath Cup football champions for the first time in 11 years.

With the sides deadlocked at 1-6 to 0-9 entering the final 10 minutes, it was the home outfit who made the decisive burst as back-to-back Keelan Sexton points were followed by a game-clinching score from half-back Dean Ryan in the second minute of stoppages.

Cork required a goal to force extra-time at Miltown-Malbay, but it was Clare who engineered a green flag opening in injury-time, Cork ‘keeper Chris Kelly expertly tipping Sexton's drive around the post.

The three-point win represented Clare’s first McGrath Cup success since 2008 and will have them in confident mood ahead of the visit of Donegal to Ennis, for the first round of the Allianz league, in a fortnight.

The pick-up in intensity in the second period, as well as the mildly entertaining conclusion, stood in stark contrast to a pretty dire first-half of football which saw Clare lead 1-3 to 0-3 at the break.

Spectators at Miltown-Malbay were treated to just seven scores during the opening 35 minutes of football, only three of which arrived from open play. The score which separated the sides at the break was Gordon Kelly’s eighth-minute goal, his speculative effort from out the field deceiving newcomer Kelly between the Cork sticks.

Cork goalkeeper Chris Kelly concedes a long-range goal from Gordon Kelly of Clare (unseen) during the McGrath Cup Final match between Cork and Clare at Hennessy Park in Miltown Malbay, Co. Clare. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Cork goalkeeper Chris Kelly concedes a long-range goal from Gordon Kelly of Clare (unseen) during the McGrath Cup Final match between Cork and Clare at Hennessy Park in Miltown Malbay, Co. Clare. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

With Gary Brennan at full-forward, Clare had thrice gone long in the opening minutes in a bid to exploit the offensive mark, but with no success enjoyed, it was a ploy that was largely abandoned for the remainder of the half. Brennan, with a fine kick, was responsible for Clare’s sole first-half point from play.

Down the other end of the field, Cian Kiely’s 5th-minute effort was Cork’s sole first-half score from play. Two Stephen Sherlock frees completed their measly 0-3 total.

The introduction of Keelan Sexton at half-time gave Clare a second forward target to aim at, the Kilmurry Ibrickane sharpshooter and Gary Brennan extending the Banner’s lead at a wet and windy Miltown-Malbay to five points.

Cork finally shook themselves into action thereafter. Two apiece from Mark Collins and Damien Gore, along with a Peter Kelleher white flag, had the visitors back on level terms. This five-in-a-row was by some distance their most productive spell of the game. Crucially, though, they never snuck their noses in front, with Clare landing the vital scores as the finishing line came into view.

Scorers for Clare: K Sexton (0-4, 0-3 frees); G Kelly (1-0); C O’Connor (0-2 frees), G Brennan (0-2); D Ryan (0-1).

Scorers for Cork: S Sherlock (0-2 frees), M Collins (0-2, 0-1 free), D Gore (0-2, 0-1 free); E McSweeney, C Kiely, P Kelleher (0-1 each).

Clare: E Tubridy; G Kelly, C Brennan, K Harnett; D Ryan, A Fitzgerald, E Collins; D Bohannon, C O’Connor; C O’Dea, D O’Halloran, D Coughlan; G Cooney, G Brennan, K Malone.

Subs: K Sexton for O’Halloran, S O’Donoghue for Gooney (both HT); G O’Brien for Malone (47 mins); D Tubridy for Bohannon (55); S Collins for Coughlan (57).

Cork: C Kelly; S Ryan, P Murphy, A Browne; L O’Donovan, T Clancy, S Cronin; J Fitzpatrick, R O’Toole; J O’Rourke, E McSweeney, C Kiely; M Collins, P Kelleher, S Sherlock.

Subs: D Gore for Sherlock (43 mins); N Walsh for Ryan, K O’Donovan for O’Rourke (both 51); T Corkery for Kiely (60); for B Murphy for Cronin (66).

Referee: P O’Sullivan (Kerry)

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