The visitors to Ennis came with a late charge, outscoring their hosts by 0-6 to 0-1 in the closing 10 minutes. The final margin, thus, gives the impression of a tight, well-fought contest. Again, anything but as the home side impressively became the first team to qualify for the quarter-finals of the competition.
Cork, stuck to the ground during an opening half where they were totally overrun and outfought, began hurling half an hour too late. And when they finally did manage to string a meaningful run of scores together, their opponents already had the two points sewn up.
Anyway, enough about the visitors for a moment. After all, they spent much of the afternoon self-cast in a supporting role.
Given the manner in which Clare stole a march on Kilkenny last time out - the Banner led 2-7 to 0-2 at Nowlan Park 19 minutes in - we shouldn’t have been overly surprised at their bolting from the blocks.
Full-forward Peter Duggan threw over the first of his eight dead-ball efforts inside 54 seconds. Come the sixth minute, they led 0-4 to 0-1. That three of the next four scores went the way of the visitors was largely of Clare’s own making; Mark Ellis was needlessly fouled when surrounded by four saffron and blue jerseys, while Patrick O’Connor subsequently pawed possession on the ground.
Then Tony Kelly, Duggan (two frees and a ‘65), Michael O’Malley, Colm Galvin and John Conlon delivered seven on the bounce to leave Gerry O’Connor and Donal Moloney’s charges sitting pretty at 0-12 to 0-4 ahead. Michael O’Malley’s was the pick of the bunch, edging Robbie O’Flynn in the tussle for possession before finding the target from inside his own half.
Their lead could have been greater as Shane O’Donnell, with a perfectly weighted pass over the head of two Cork defenders, put through Podge Collins but the Cratloe man was unable to oblige.
As noted elsewhere on this page, Cork had the outstanding goal chance of the half. Possession was worked through the hands of Colm Spillane, Tim O’Mahony and Robbie O’Flynn, the latter sending Seamus Harnedy inside the cover. Had he wanted, the Cork captain had the time and space to round Donal Tuohy. He instead opted to shoot early, the sliotar striking Tuohy and squirting out for a ‘65 which Horgan sent wide.
Come the interval break, the scoreline read 0-16 to 0-5. Of Clare’s starting front eight, six were on the scoresheet, as well as wing-backs O’Malley and Seadna Morey.
We’re conscious the league is but three rounds old and winter is little more than a fortnight behind us but the bulk of Clare’s play during this opening half, particularly their support play and direct running from midfield up, was reminiscent of what we saw from the all-conquering Clare U21 teams, overseen by the current senior management, between 2012 and 2014. Certainly, Colm Galvin and Tony Kelly are reinvigorated at midfield. David McInerney and Conor Cleary, having swapped the number three and six shirts during the off-season, kept their opposite numbers, Harnedy and Horgan, to a point each from play.
Tipperary, Kilkenny, and now Cork downed, they’ve plenty reason to be optimistic as they look forward to a renewal of acquaintances with old boss Davy Fitz this weekend.
Returning to Cork, their first-half statistics make for grim reading.
No score between the 12th and the 32nd minute. No score from play between the 2nd and 32nd minute. Two points from play in total. Horgan accounted for all but one of their five points.
Luke Meade was the other contributor, his point arriving in the second minute. There was simply no urgency from the men clad in red.
And despite Meyler’s troops reeling off four points without reply early in the second-half, we had a situation on 43 minutes where Clare’s wing-backs, O’Malley and Morey, having both just registered their second points, had scored the same amount from play as Cork had.
That pretty much summed up the afternoon, a game watched by a crowd of 4,945.
Mark Ellis, Darren Browne, Bill Cooper and Horgan (free) were the providers during another run of four-in-a-row as Clare hit a barren patch 14 minutes long.
Duggan (free), Kelly, a sumptuous score which included a reverse handpass from O’Donnell, and Galvin had them motoring again and while the Rebels dominated the finish, there was never any threat to Clare being denied a third league win from three.
P Duggan (0-8, 0-6 frees, 0-2 ‘65s): D Reidy (0-3); M O’Malley, S Morey, C Galvin, T Kelly, J Conlon (0-2 each); N Deasy, P Collins (0-1 each).
P Horgan (0-12, 0-9 frees, 0-2 ‘65s); D Browne, T O’Mahony, M Ellis, L Meade, R O’Flynn, S Harnedy, B Cooper (0-1 each).
D Tuohy; P O’Connor, C Cleary, J Browne; S Morey, D McInerney, M O’Malley; C Galvin, T Kelly; N Deasy, J Conlon, D Reidy; S O’Donnell, P Duggan, P Collins.
C Malone for Conlon (51 mins); C McGrath for Collins (57); D Corry for Deasy (60); D Fitzgerald for O’Malley (66); J McCarthy for Galvin (66).
A Nash; S O’Donoghue, E Cadogan, C Spillane; C Joyce, T O’Mahony, D Browne; M Ellis, D Kearney; R O’Flynn, S Harnedy, B Cooper; L Meade, P Horgan, S Kingston.
L McLoughlin for Kearney (HT): R O’Shea for Kingston (45); J O’Connor for Meade (51); B Lawton for O’Flynn (61).
P O’Dwyer (Carlow).