The home team were crestfallen at the final whistle of this game and it was easy to understand their dejection, as they appeared on the cusp of a famous win with six minutes remaining. Neat footwork by lively wing-forward Padraig Collins saw him stride through for a left-footed point and with a 0-9 to 1-5 advantage against a Cork team that were down to 14 men after Sean O’Shea saw yellow for the second time in the 37th minute, the momentum appeared to be with Clare.
But while their performance was below-par for large chunks of this match, Cork summoned up the goods when their situation was most critical and they wrestled back the initiative. On a night when they largely flatlined in attack, it was the West Cork combination in their full-forward line that caught fire in the closing stages. Castlehaven’s Brian Hurley tied the game when swinging over a lovely shot with his left in the 57th minute and Ilen Rovers’ Daniel McEoin pushed them ahead when he thumped over a 62nd minute free.
With Damien Cahalane lording matters at midfield with three magnificent catches from kickouts in a row, Cork continued to pour forward and belied their numerical disadvantage. There was still time for Hurley and McEoin to grab a point each which gave some gloss to Cork’s eventual winning margin. Clare will head for the backdoor section with regrets that they could not close out this game. They got excellent displays from full-back Graham Johnson, centre-back Enda Boyce and captain Padraig Collins at wing-forward.
But they never led by more than two points in the second half and that meant Cork were able to grip onto their coat-tails. Cork’s resilient streak and some fine individual efforts by Derek Crowley and Tomás Clancy in defence kept them in the hunt, and when the chances presented themselves late on, Hurley and McEoin held their nerve to find the range.
The opening half was shrouded in mediocrity with the frequency of referee Keith O’Brien’s whistle blasts for fouls stalling the flow of the game. Cork just edged ahead on the scoreboard 1-2 to 0-2 after the first quarter, yet they owed large debt to good fortune for their advantage. The critical score arrived in the 13th minute when corner-forward Hurley’s under-hit shot for a point looped into the net and Hurley contributed the total sum of Cork’s first-half scores on his own, with two accurate pointed frees to complement that goal.
Cork’s attack carried little punch early on and Clare’s defence, spearheaded by Johnson and Boyce, soaked up the pressure. By half-time the sides were locked together 1-2 to 0-5. Yet that state of parity masked the fact that Clare should have been in front given their territorial dominance. Deep-lying half-forwards Seanie Malone and Padraig Collins were impressive ball-carriers, while their ploy of using Darragh Sexton as a third midfielder paid dividends. Tony Kelly and Niall Hickey looked useful in their contributions close to goal, and they each popped up with a splendid point.
Clare began the second half with Niall Hickey curling over and big midfielder Aidan Malone popping over a free. By the 38th minute they were 0-7 to 1-2 ahead and coupled with the dismissal of O’Shea, everything looked to be falling in favour of the home side. Cork ploughed on and a point apiece by Hurley and McEoin brought them back into contention at 1-4 to 0-7 by the 42nd minute.
Hickey pushed Clare ahead again before a McEoin free tied matters again with 10 to go. Scores were at a premium now but Collins fine shot in the 54th minute seemed to be crucial, only for Cork’s powerful late rally to ensure they triumphed.
Scorers for Cork: B Hurley, 1-5 (0-3f); D McEoin, 0-4 (0-2f).
Scorers for Clare: A Malone (3f), N Hickey, 0-3 each;, P Collins, 0-2; T Kelly 0-1.
CORK: D Hanrahan; D Crowley, S O’Shea, D O’Donovan; T Clancy, D O’Carroll, M O’Shea; D Cahalane, J Byrne; J O’Rourke, A Cronin, C O’Sullivan; D McEoin, T Hegarty, B Hurley.
Subs: D Murphy for O’Donovan (24), P Hicks for O’Sullivan (ht), D Lester for O’Carroll (41), D Ring for Hegarty (44).
CLARE: R Dunne; J Colleran, G Johnson, O Vaughan; S Lineen, E Boyce, W De Loughrey; R Linnane, A Malone; S Malone, C O’Reilly, P Collins; T Kelly, N Hickey, D Sexton. Subs: A Downes for O’Reilly (41), A Murrihy for S Malone (47).
Referee: Keith O’Brien (Tipperary).