It was not a straightforward journey to success for Cork as Clare played with plenty spirit throughout to remain in touch. Ultimately the two goals that Cork plundered, one in either half, proved to be the critical scores in separating the teams before an attendance of 1,200 supporters.
Those two strikes were claimed by attacking duo Dan MacEoin and Stephen O’Mahony, who are both survivors from the squad that contested last September’s All-Ireland minor decider. Cork’s aspirations received a major early boost in the 14th minute when they found the net after a sparkling team move. Wing-forward David Harrington launched a perceptive pass in to the imposing figure of O’Mahony who laid the ball off tidily to McEoin and he crashed a bullet of a shot into the net past Clare netminder Darren Sexton.
It was not until the 47th minute that Cork managed to make the game safe when they raised their second green flag of the game. MacEoin began the move when he released wing-back Kevin Crowley — who was an impressive performer on the night, and he skipped past the Clare defence before offloading to O’Mahony who buried a low shot to the net.
That O’Mahony strike left Cork 2-7 to 0-8 in front and drained the life from Clare’s challenge. In the closing stages they needed to grab goals to rescue the match but could not penetrate the Cork rearguard for whom Jamie Davis, Conor Dorman and Crowley were all in resilient form. Cork managed to finish with a flourish as substitute Killian McIntyre raced through for a lovely point and MacEoin thumped over a beauty from distance to bring his overall tally to 1-4.
Cork settled comfortably to their task in the first-half. Centre-forward Alan Cadogan was at the heart of all their best attacking movements while midfielders Sean Kiely and Mark Sugrue gave them a strong foothold in that sector. MacEoin displayed his ability in front of goal with early points while Clyda Rovers corner-forward Cian O’Sullivan enjoyed a superb first-half. His trickery caused difficulties for the Clare defence as he registered three points in the opening 30 minutes.
Cork had chances in the first-half to add to their goal tally. In the 9th minute Harrington broke clear before unleashing a goalbound drive that full-back Craig O’Brien managed to intercept with a brave block. Then just before the interval Brian O’Driscoll knifed through the Clare rearguard but the shot he blasted with his left foot was beaten away by Sexton and O’Mahony saw his punched effort from the rebound cannon back off the upright.
By the 20th minute Clare trailed 1-4 to 0-3 yet they surged back into contention before the break. They had a pair of classy inside attackers in Niall Hickey and Martin O’Leary who contributed five points between them in the first-half. Hickey’s freetaking was excellent while O’Leary showed great accuracy with his left foot. Centre-forward Conor Cleary banged over an outstanding point as well and Clare were only 1-5 to 0-7 adrift at half-time.
Clare’s hopes of victory were still intact during the third quarter yet the positional alterations that Cork made began to tell. O’Mahony moved to midfield, Sugrue went to centre-forward while MacEoin was positioned at full-forward. The vital score came courtesy of O’Mahony with that 47th minute goal and that meant Clare face the prospect of a trip to Dungarvan next Saturday to face Waterford in the backdoor stages.
Scorers for Cork: D MacEoin 1-4 (0-2f); C O’Sullivan 0-3; S O’Mahony 1-0; B O’Driscoll (0-1f), K Crowley, K McIntyre 0-1 each.
Scorers for Clare: N Hickey 0-5 (0-3f); M O’Leary 0-2; J Malone, C Cleary, E Cleary (0-1f), W Flynn 0-1 each.
J McDonnell; J Davis, C Dorman, K Hayes-Curtin; K Crowley, K Fulignati, K O’Hanlon; S Kiely, M Sugrue; B O’Driscoll, A Cadogan, D Harrington; D McEoin, S O’Mahony, C O’Sullivan.
Subs: D Murphy for O’Hanlon (half-time), S Ryan for Fulignati (42), J Corkery for Harrington (55), K McIntyre for Cadogan (57).
D Sexton; C Gavin, C O’Brien, O Vaughan; J Colleran, S Lineen, D Bolton; A O’Neill, D McDonagh; E Cleary, C Cleary, A Murrihy; M O’Leary, N Hickey, J Malone.
Subs: W Flynn for Malone (38), J Rouine for Bolton (42), C Devitt for O’Leary (52), J Sweeney for O’Brien (56), J Scanlon for Murrihy (58).
Referee: Richard Moloney (Limerick)