Going to Cusack Park last night, there was a massive crowd — probably a sizeable amount down from the Galway Races — and you were thinking it would be a humdinger.
There was a great buzz but after about 10 minutes it was over.
As a Clareman, it’s the first time I remember Clare beating Cork in any Munster hurling final. Because of that there was a bit of a worry before the game, but Clare were way sharper and as a team were superior in every position, Cork never came out of the traps and looked very pedestrian.
All six of the Clare forwards were excellent and Colm Galvin was outstanding at midfield but they were being given time and space.
The way I could have described it was they could have sat down, had a cup of tea and hit the ball.
With the size and tradition of the county, you’d say that Cork would put it up to anybody in hurling, but it was a really flat performance, the body language was bad from the start and they weren’t attacking the ball with intensity.
Management can only do so much but when the team cross the line they have to show the willingness to win the ball, maybe even get a bit mad to win it, get a yellow card or two, it shows at least that you won’t go down without a battle.
Everyone likes to see a good battle, but I just felt Cork weren’t up for it — they didn’t get a point from play until the 24th minute, and that was from Mark Sugrue, a sub.
Apart from Rob O’Shea and Michael Collins, and Alan Cadogan to a lesser extent, it was hard to see anybody from Cork who played well. It was surprising, especially after such a good win in Waterford. If that’s the best Cork can offer, they will be in trouble at senior level in a few years’ time.
We must praise Clare, too. Senior experience was a huge help for them, and that you had lads going for three in a row. They got an awful fright from Tipperary in the semi-final but they were well keyed in.
They’ve been brilliantly managed by Donal Moloney and Gerry O’Connor. They’re with them since minor level and then Paul Kinnerk in playing a crucial role in terms of the playing style. There’s a natural team ethic, they’re all working really hard for one another, it’s fantastic to see and that comes from being together for a long time.
Can anybody stop them? Every game is different but the team that beats them will be very, very good. Up the road, Galway can’t be disregarded, they won the minor three years ago, and Wexford will have a say too.
Whatever happens, I’m sure Clare will have bigger battles than last night but they’re a very grounded team and that’s a good thing.