DONAL O'GRADY: Is it time to punish tardy teams late back to the party?

At half-time, the Cork players and the match officials were left waiting for Clare for a number of minutes in the bitterly cold conditions. 

Inter-county set-ups time pre-match and half-time operations to the second. 

It may be that Clare got their timing wrong or there was some unforeseen malfunction with the second-half preparations.

Some teams have used the delay as a tactic in the past. Waterford were late out yesterday against Kilkenny too. 

There are fines but suppose two points were added to an opponents’ total for every minute, or portion thereof, a team was late onto the field. I’m sure that this would end the practice fairly quickly.

Cork set out their stall early and Anthony Nash’s accurate puck-outs established good possession for his outfield colleagues. 

Clare found these difficult to shut down. This provided the Rebels with a solid platform.

All Cork’s debutants did well. The tracking back and work-rate off the ball by Darragh Fitzgibbon, Shane Kingston, and particularly Luke Meade, who made some vital hooks, all made a tremendous contribution to Cork’s cause, while wing-back Mark Coleman was impressive throughout.

Cork defended with determination. Anthony Nash made a fine double save from a well-struck penalty by Tony Kelly, who struck it to the keeper’s stronger side. 

Nash also saved the follow-up by Aaron Shanagher at a vital time early in the second half. 

Pressure from David Griffin and the other tightly bunched defenders, who stuck well to their task, eventually forced Tony Kelly to try for a point but it faded wide. 

It was a defining play and it showcased Cork’s stubborn defensive defiance on the night.

Nash came off his line again later and made a good ground block. 

Killian Burke, Colm Spillane, and the aforementioned Griffin marked tightly and with tenacity, helped superbly by centre-back Mark Ellis, who made one vital interception at the edge of the square. This application kept Cork’s goal intact in the second half.

I mentioned on Saturday that “regular little successes” build defensive knowhow and confidence. 

There were plenty of these minor collective defensive victories on Saturday night that can be built on.

That is not to say all is rosy in the Cork garden, On occasion, the Clare forwards cut through dangerously and only last-ditch tackling saved the Rebels’ goal. 

Aaron Shanagher also drove too easily along the left endline five minutes before half-time, leaving a few defenders in his wake. 

Only a smart save by Nash saved the day. Tony Kelly ran through a little later without a great deal of pressure and the rebound was knocked home by Podge Collins.

Both Cork and Clare played two-man inside forward lines but overall Cork had a much greater scoring capability with Douglas pair Shane Kingston and Alan Cadogan particularly prominent. 

Cadogan gave a man-of-the-match display reminiscent of last year’s performance in the ‘back door’ game against Dublin at Páirc Uí Rinn.

I was surprised the Clare sideline persisted with Jack Browne as Cadogan’s marker. He was clearly in trouble early on as the corner-forward regularly gained possession and pointed. But the Clare management only switched corner-backs after 45 minutes.

Clare looked flat whereas Cork were full of enthusiastic endeavour. 

The normally majestic Tony Kelly, captain on the night, looked out of sorts in midfield for the majority of the first half but came to life with the fine run that led to the goal before half-time, having been moved to a position further forward. He also delivered five class points on the resumption.

I was expecting a Banner performance full of fire and vim but this display will have disappointed their supporters. 

They struck nine wides in the first half with freetaker David Reidy striking two from placed balls. However, they did have a number of efforts for goals whereas Cork failed to trouble Clare netminder Donal Tuohy.

Up front, Shane O’Donnell wins possession well but he needs quicker support if Clare hope to find the net regularly in their upcoming matches. Overall, they have much work to accomplish.

Cork need to iron out a few areas also. They must realise that poorly judged cross- field balls are a liability at this level. 

Clare’s goal came directly from one while Christopher Joyce and Mark Ellis, who had a fine game, needlessly conceded possession with loose deliveries.

Thirty deliveries were sent into the forward line in the first half. A return of eight points questions the quality of the deliveries and the movement inside. 

At the other end, a lot of green grass was allowed in front of Clare’s Aaron Shanagher in the second half. His marker David Griffin coped well but it’s an area that needs attention.

However, on the night the positives far outweighed the negatives. For the Rebels, a satisfactory evening’s work but Clare have more questions than answers.

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