Clinical Cork get wind in their sails

Cork 0-23 Clare 0-15
A rejigged and rejuvenated Cork proved far too resourceful for Clare in this all-action Munster SHC semi-final at the windswept Gaelic Grounds yesterday, a hard-working first-half display, at the end of which they trailed by just three points (0-11 to 0-8, playing into the gale), laying the foundations for Jimmy Barry Murphy’s side to drive on for a thoroughly deserved win.

Clare had their chances, and on several occasions it took desperate last-ditch defending to keep the Banner attack at bay. Outstanding Cork keeper Anthony Nash thrice denied them certain goals; a defender’s hurley here, a flick there denied them on other occasions; and finally their own lack of composure on the ball also cost Clare dear.

Had they managed any of those goals, however, given the ferocity of Cork’s display, their work rate from end to end and from first minute to last, it would probably have served just to put a gloss on the final scoreline because make no mistake about it, by far the better team won yesterday.

It leaves Cork now anticipating a Munster final appearance against Limerick on July 14, the first time these two counties have met at that stage since 1992, when Cork prevailed by five points, 1-22 to 3-11.

Stand-in Cork captain Brian Murphy won the toss and ! elected to face the wind. Brian then trotted to the centre-back slot rather than full, where he’d been selected, and proceeded to snuff out Clare dangerman Tony Kelly, the man who had so tormented Cork in the league relegation final loss. It was a masterstroke by the Cork management, one of several on the day.

Full-forward Patrick Horgan opened the scoring, a point in the 4th minute warmly welcomed by the large Cork contingent in the disappointing 19,049 crowd. For the next six minutes however it was the Bannermen in full cry, four points on the trot (Podge Collins, Colin Ryan, Colm Galvin and Darach Honan) suggesting that Murphy’s decision to hand Clare the wind advantage was about to backfire badly. It could have been ever worse for Cork had Nash not saved a piledriver from Kelly from a Clare 20m free in the 8th minute, Clare coming away with nothing after the ball was then cleared.

On a couple of other occasions also in this half Cork again rode their luck at the back and Clare could easily have had three green flags before the break, though championship debutant Seamus Harnedy (an inspired choice to start) could equally have had a goal for Cork but his searing shot skimmed over rather than under Patrick Kelly’s crossbar.

As the game developed, wind or no wind, it was Cork who began to boss proceedings, winning more and more clean ball in the air but also contesting dervish-like for the dirty ball, the breaking ball. Shorn of three starters (captain Pa Cronin, who made a point-scoring cameo appearance at the end), Paudie O’Sullivan and Lorcan McLoughlin), the underdogs were making light of those losses and contesting strongly in every line. They were also making headway, especially against what — in their previous losses — had been a dominant Clare half-back trio of Patrick O’Connor, Patrick Donnellan and Brendan Bugler.

Point by invaluable point, Cork began to eat into the Clare lead, midfielder Daniel Kearney (magnificent 70 minutes), Harnedy, Luke O’Farrell, along with a super strike from keeper Nash, supplementing the shooting of Patrick Horgan and putting Cork in pole position as the sides headed for the dressing rooms.

The third quarter was the most decisive period, Cork with eight points on the board before Clare managed to break their second-half duck. In fairness to Davy Fitz’s young side, however, again they could have had a couple of goals on the board but again they were denied by a combination of Nash/defensive doggedness/poor Clare composure.

Eventually Podge Collins, a late and very positive call-up, managed to get them on the board but on this occasion there be no late heroics by Clare, no questioning Cork’s fitness as they ramped up the pace and the pressure.

Sub Jamie Coughlan, who surely put his hand up for the final, notched two sublime points, Harnedy also had a brace, O’Farrell, Conor Lehane, Cian McCarthy, William Egan, Cronin and Nash with another long-ranger, all again offering scoring support to Horgan, back in his best position and in his best form for Cork.

A good win for Cork then, sets up a mouthwatering Munster final prospect. For Clare, a setback, no question, but time is on their side.

Scorers for Cork: P Horgan (0-8, five frees), S Harnedy (0-3), C Lehane, L O’Farrell, J Coughlan, A Nash (two frees) (0-2 each), C McCarthy, D Kearney, W Egan, P Cronin (0-1 each).

Scorers for Clare: P Collins (0-5), Colin Ryan (one free, 0-1 65), C Galvin, C McGrath, D Honan (0-2 each), T Kelly, S O’Donnell (0-1 each).

CORK: A Nash; S McDonnell, B Murphy, C O’Sullivan; S O’Neill, C Joyce, W Egan; T Kenny, D Kearney; C McCarthy, S Harnedy, C Lehane; P Horgan, L O’Farrell, S Moylan.

Subs for Cork: J Coughlan for Moylan (32); P Cronin for McCarthy (62).

CLARE: P Kelly; D O’Donovan, D McInerney, C Dillon; P O’Connor, P Donnellan (c), B Bugler; N O’Connell, C Galvin; J Conlon, T Kelly, Colin Ryan; C McGrath, D Honan, P Collins.

Subs for Clare: A Cunningham for Conlon (inj. 19), F Lynch for Ryan (43), S Morey for O’Connell (55), S O’Donnell for McGrath (61).

Referee: B Kelly (Westmeath).


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