Returning Rebels leave it late

A MAGNIFICENT final 10 minutes, during which they came from six points behind to win by four, saw Cork gain their first league points of the 2009 campaign in Ennis yesterday.

Just one member of the 2009 panel made the starting 15 — and Conor O’Sullivan again impressed at corner-back — but the other 14 came from the 2008 panel, and though there was ring-rustiness, the old fire was back.

Clare manager Mike McNamara was spot on afterwards when he claimed that his team “dominated the game in most quarters, dominated most of the exchanges, were coasting to victory”.

That Cork actually won was down to a stroke of luck – a sideline ball from the outstanding Ben O’Connor in the 50th minute went all the way to the net, bringing Cork back into this game.

A strike of lightning in the 64th minute from a Pat Horgan goaled free levelled the scores and put Cork in position to drive on to a powerful finish.

Having played with the aid of the strong breeze, Clare led at the break by five points, 0-11 to 0-6, and were worth every point of that lead. Cork were way off the pace up front, beaten consistently to the ball by the Clare defence in which late call-up James McInerney did well at wing-back in the absence of Gerry Quinn, dropped on Friday night for disciplinary reasons.

Up front Jonathon Clancy was really flying for the Banner, forcing a switch of John Gardiner with Kevin Hartnett, who eventually managed to subdue the all-action Clarecastle star, while Colin Ryan was deadly accurate from placed balls.

The first 24 minutes of the second half saw more of the same, Clare deservedly extending their lead despite that soft goal by O’Connor, substitutes Niall Gilligan and Tony Carmody contributing a point apiece as Clare looked set for a convincing win, 0-16 to 1-7.

Cork were also down to 14 men, Niall McCarthy getting a straight red for an off-the-ball incident involving Bugler, with centre-back Ronan Curran yellow carded for arguing with the ref and John Gardiner (hamstring injury) also on the bench.

A magnificent point from the ever-dependable Ben O’Connor began the Cork revival, then came the Horgan goal after a fairly harsh call against Clare keeper Phillip Brennan, followed by a procession of points in what became one-way traffic for the remainder of the game, and all was turned on its head.

“A great win,” said a delighted Considine. “Six points down, it was as if the lads made up their own minds that they were going to win. I had an armchair ride when they kicked into gear in the last ten minutes.

“I couldn’t do much, I didn’t have to do much, the lads did the business. We have had only two nights with them and in that limited time we couldn’t get them any fitter, any faster, we couldn’t do any hurling, couldn’t change any game plan — we just pulled them together.

“In fairness to the lads they did what was required but we didn’t know how they were going to be ‘til they actually took the field. They started badly in the second half, only one score in the first 15 minutes, but there were too many breaks in play, lots of stoppages, which doesn’t suit this team.

“The two points are important, we’re in a relegation battle, we just keep them together now, Tuesday night, Thursday night, then a game on Sunday again.”

No trace of any bitterness between the players but given that they have already played together with both UCC and CIT, even during the height of the dispute, no surprise there for Considine: “No, you saw out there, everyone was fighting for everyone else; that’s the great thing about being on the field, you’re in your own little world and it’s the best place on earth, out there in the Cork jersey.”

Mike McNamara saw no reason for Clare supporters to panic: “There’s nothing wrong with the team, little wrong with the way they’re playing, just little glitches here and there. That we finished on the losing side is one of the vagaries of sport – look at yesterday’s rugby match, one kick, what it could have done to Ireland’s hopes and ambitions.

“We’re in that situation, we need to get a few more scores, need to get more confidence I suppose, hopefully pick up a few points in the league, but there’s a bigger picture down the road.”

Scorers for Cork: B O’Connor 1-9 (1-0 s/l, 0-8f); P Horgan 1-1 (1-0f); K Murphy (Sars), K Murphy (Erin’s Own), N McCarthy, C Naughton, 0-1 each.

Scorers for Clare: C Ryan 0-8 (0-6f, 0-1 65); J Clancy 0-2; P Vaughan, B Nugent, T Griffin, N Gilligan, T Carmody, D McMahon, 0-1 each.

CORK: D Óg Cusack; S O’Neill, E Cadogan, C O’Sullivan; J Gardiner, R Curran, K Hartnett; T Kenny, C Naughton; B O’Connor, N McCarthy, P Cronin; P Horgan, N Ronan, K Murphy (Sars).

Subs: B Corry (Ronan 35); K McGann (Curran yc 37); K Murphy (Erin’s Own, Gardiner inj 46); P O’Sullivan (Cronin 53).

CLARE: P Brennan; C McMahon, C Dillon, G O’Grady (c); B Bugler, J McInerney, P Donnellan; B O’Connell, P Vaughan; T Griffin, D McMahon, J Clancy; G Arthur, B Nugent, C Ryan.Subs: N Gilligan (Arthur 35); T Carmody (Griffin yc 40); E Barrett (O’Connell 59); C Morey (Nugent 70+3).

Referee: A Kelly (Galway).

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