When Clare wing-back Cian O’Dea, a senior panellist, got his second point with a curling effort early in the second half, it reduced Cork’s lead to four points, 0-10 to 0-6. While always on top in the first half, any time they seemed to have shaken off their hosts, they were pulled back. It seemed the second half might hold something similar in store.
From there until injury time, though, the Rebels would score 12 of 13 points to secure the outcome and a semi-final spot against Waterford next week.
Manager Seán Hayes was pleased with the application shown. “It took us a while to settle. We were probably lucky that Anthony Casey made the two saves, but once we got over that, being 0-10 to 0-5 up at half-time, it was just a case of carrying on what we were doing. They did that, and more.
“They were told not to get complacent and they didn’t, which was important. They’re a good bunch, to be fair.
“Twenty-three points is good but that’s the problem, our next match is against Waterford and we start with zero. It’s a good performance though, when you’re playing challenge matches you don’t know how good or how bad you are.”
That quality might have been questioned as the first 10 minutes saw four points shared and Cork goalkeeper Casey called into action twice, having to deny attackers Keelan Sexton and Seán O’Donoghue with good saves.
In relatively benign conditions, with the crossfield Atlantic breeze not impinging too much, Cork suffered from an unwillingness to take on scoring opportunities, too much taken out of the ball too often. However, inspired by their centre-forward Seán O’Donoghue (both sides had a player by that name), they seized control. He kicked three of six unanswered points as direct ball to Peter Kelleher paid dividends. The full-forward broke possession well and provided smart lay-offs. He might have been awarded a penalty in the lead-up to Brian Coakley’s point on 21 minutes.
That made it 0-7 to 0-2 and one from Michael Hurley — again assisted by Kelleher — gave Cork a 0-10 to 0-3 lead as half-time approached. O’Dea and Sexton brought Clare back to within five by the interval, and O’Dea reduced the gap further on the resumption.
The 858 in attendance might have sensed a contest, but Cork weren’t for co-operating. O’Donoghue’s sixth was an instant response before two from Coakley made it 0-13 to 0-6. Though Sexton had his third and Clare’s seventh, Cork would add nine before the next home score.
Kelleher got on the scoresheet, as did the hardworking Don O’Driscoll, while Maidhc Ó Duinnín scored with his first touch after being introduced from the bench. Midfielder Ronan O’Toole and corner-back Micheál McSweeney also added points before attacker Stephen Sherlock advanced his claims, kicking the last three points after coming on after 49 minutes.
Clare searched for goals in the closing stages, Kevin Flahive making a good block from a Sexton free while Casey denied sub Michael Duffy, but even if they had gone in it wouldn’t have made much of a difference.
That the Cork defence remained resolute was comforting to Hayes. “They did what was asked of them,” Hayes said. “Ronan O’Toole was outstanding, he was a great find. Stephen Sherlock came on and got a few points, he’s a class player, he was unlucky not to start but we have three lads in there who are very good too.
“The attitude was fabulous, the tackling was good, they didn’t let fellas past them too easily. We probably should have won more of our own kickouts, but it gives us something to work on for next Wednesday night.
“There’s a batch of U21 club games on Saturday, so you see how you are on Sunday night.”
S O’Donoghue 0-6 (three frees), B Coakley 0-5 (four frees), S Sherlock 0-3 (one free), P Kelleher, M Hurley 0-2 each, R Harkin, M McSweeney, R O’Toole, D O’Driscoll, M Ó Duinnín 0-1 each.
K Sexton 0-4 (three frees), C Brennan (one free), C O’Dea 0-2 each.
A Casey (Kiskeam); D Quinn (St Finbarr’s), M McSweeney (Newcestown), J Mullins (Éire Óg); K Flahive (Douglas), S Cronin (Nemo Rangers), K Histon (Cobh); S White (Clonakilty), R O’Toole (Éire Óg); D O’Driscoll (Clann nan Gael), S O’Donoghue (Inniscarra), R Harkin (Mallow); B Coakley (Carrigaline), P Kelleher (Kilmichael), M Hurley (Castlehaven).
E Lavers (Dohenys) for Histon (40), M Ó Duinnín (Naomh Abán) for O’Donoghue (44), S O’Leary (Bantry Blues) for O’Driscoll (45), S Sherlock (St Finbarr’s) for Hurley (49), C Kiely (Ballincollig) for McSweeney, K Cremin (Boherbue) for Harkin (both 53).
K Roche (Cooraclare); C O’Halloran (Éire Óg Ennis), D Nagle (Liscannor), N Lynch (Clondegad); P Lillis (Cooraclare), J O’Dea (Kilfenora), C O’Dea (Kilfenora); D Walsh (Éire Óg Ennis), L Tierney (St Breckan’s); K Malone (St Joseph’s Doora-Barefield), C Brennan (Clondegad), C Ó hAiniféin (Éire Óg Ennis); K Sexton (Kilmurry-Ibrickane), S O’Donoghue (Cooraclare), D Egan (Kilmihil).
T Lynch (Clondegad) for Egan, M Duffy (Kilfenora) for Walsh (both half-time), E O’Connor (Éire Óg Ennis) for O’Donoghue (47), E Tubridy (Doonbeg) for Malone (54).
S Lonergan (Tipperary).