The pair, who were initially supposed to meet in the round-robin phase this Sunday, with the decider the following weekend, will now contest the final this Sunday at the Gaelic Grounds after yesterday’s results confirmed a Clare-Limerick finale.
Indeed, with the first round of the Fitzgibbon Cup scheduled for Sunday, January 21, last night’s decision by Munster Council top brass ensures both managements will have a full complement to choose from. That wouldn’t have been the case had Munster Council stuck to their initial fixture plan.
Clare’s progress to a fifth pre-season final in the last seven Januarys was far easier than expected. Then again, this was a largely inexperienced Cork side.
Of the starting XV put out by John Meyler, who opted to watch the match from the stand, only Anthony Nash and Luke Meade started a championship match for Cork in 2017. Moreover, only three further members of this selection — Lorcán McLoughlin, Brian Lawton, and Daniel Kearney — saw championship game-time last summer.
Contrast this with the team put out by Donal Moloney and Gerry O’Connor, eight of whom started at least one championship match for the Banner in 2017. Not among that group is Peter Duggan. He enjoyed far better fortunes with the club towards the end of last year, a key figure in Clooney-Quin reaching a first Clare senior final in 73 years.
That form remains with him, Duggan bagging two goals inside the opening 17 minutes. Those goals sandwiched a Cathal Malone major nine minutes in. Midway through the opening half, Clare led 3-2 to 0-3.
“Peter didn’t start too many games for us last year and is finding form. He was enjoying himself out there,” said joint-manager Gerry O’Connor.
Eoin Cadogan, making his first appearance for the hurlers since June of 2014, found himself shadowing Duggan for the majority of proceedings, having been moved from centre to full-back after the Clare forward’s early rampage.
In truth, the visiting full-back line was in trouble for much of the afternoon. Duggan was totally unmarked when receiving Ian Galvin’s pass for the opener, four Cork defenders were passed for Malone’s strike, Conor O’Sullivan was caught ball-watching for the third after Lorcán McLoughlin had been pickpocketed by Colm Galvin out the field.
Between that and goal number four on 50 minutes, a Niall Deasy groundstroke, Conor McGrath could have twice rattled the net, while Anthony Nash denied the same player late on.
Rebel boss Meyler said experimentation is more important than results at this early stage of the year.
“We were in trouble in the full-back line early on, the goals killed us.
“With a big panel of 35 players, you have to give everyone a game. There is no point having them on the panel and not using them. We could have been a bit stronger today and a bit weaker last night in our selection for a challenge game against Dublin. Look, that is the way it goes. Fellas get their opportunity. Eoin Cadogan put his hand up, he steadied the ship when switched, and I’m absolutely delighted with his performance. Eoin Murphy came up and got two great points.”
Murphy, Declan Dalton (two frees), and McLoughlin clipped four points on the bounce approaching the break, the interval scoreline reading 3-5 to 0-10 in favour of the hosts.
Deasy’s goal made it 4-9 to 0-11, with second-half subs Tony Kelly, David Reidy, and Mickey O’Neill all contributing two points apiece to ease Clare home.
“New players have all done well,” continued O’Connor. “Ryan Taylor has been very impressive. Cathal Malone, his work-rate is phenomenal, and an awful lot of good comes off him.”
P Duggan (2-0); N Deasy (0-1 free), C Malone (1-2 each); I Galvin (0-3); T Kelly, M O’Neill, D Reidy, S Morey (0-2 each); B Connors, R Taylor (0-1 each).
R O’Shea (0-4, 0-2 frees), D Dalton (0-4, 0-4 frees); D Kearney (0-3); L McLoughlin, E Murphy (0-2 each); J Looney, E Finn, L Meade (0-1 each).
P Kelly; E Quirke, C Cleary, P O’Connor; S Morey, D McInerney, D Fitzgerald; R Taylor, C Galvin; N Deasy, C Malone, I Galvin; C McGrath, P Duggan, B Connors.
J Browne for Quirke (17 mins, inj); D Reidy for C Galvin (37); T Kelly for Malone (50); M O’Neill for Connors (51); J McCarthy for Morey (55).
A Nash; D Griffin, E Murphy, C O’Sullivan; C O’Leary, E Cadogan, R Cahalane; L McLoughlin, L Meade; E Finn, B Lawton, D Kearney; D Dalton, E Sheehan, R O’Shea.
J Looney for Finn (25 mins); I Cahill for Sheehan (48); C Twomey for Cahalane (57); E Keniry for Dalton (59); J Cashman for O’Sullivan (65).
J McCormack (Tipperary).