As Jimmy Barry Murphy and his management team prepare for Sunday week’s All-Ireland quarter-final clash with Galway, they will have plenty to ponder after a victory against the odds over Clare in Thurles on Saturday evening.
Cork won only 45 percent of the puck-outs on the day, 47 percent of possession and shot a tally of 20 wides. These were the negatives for Cork, but the overall game stats tell a more encouraging story.
Cork’s work rate was supreme. Despite a deficit of possession and primary possession from puck-outs, they made up for this with a superb collective tackle count of 74, 19 more than Clare on the day.
The pressure that Cork applied to Clare men in possession of the ball was crucial to this victory.
Clare had a massive 20 turnovers on the day, 19 incomplete passes and 18 wides. In other words, Clare made poor use of their 162 possessions.
Cork, in contrast, had only 10 turnovers and 17 incomplete passes. In a game of tight margins, this greater efficiency proved crucial.
Cork also had individual heroes. Bill Cooper was hugely influential, topping their possession count with 18, followed by Aidan Walsh with 13 and Patrick Horgan, Mark Ellis and Cormac Murphy all on 12 each.
Aidan Walsh topped the individual tackle count with nine, followed by Brian Murphy with eight and Bill Cooper with seven. Patrick Horgan’s contribution was also noteworthy. In the first half, the Glen Rovers man had nine possessions as Cork employed the clever tactic once more of playing both Horgan and Cadogan in space.
There was a complete contrast in the second half however and it was not until the 61st minute that Horgan made a meaningful contribution with a wonderful point from play.
By that time, Alan Cadogan had been taken off - the Douglas man had only touched the ball once in the second half.
This will be an obvious concern to the Cork management, but on the plus side Seamus Harnedy did really well as a target-man on the edge of the square.
Harnedy had four assists and two scores from play which replicated the equally impressive return from Clare target-man Shane O’Donnell. Cork finally have a ball winner on the edge of the square and that will be crucial to the Rebels’ prospects if they are to advance in the All-Ireland series.
Davy Fitzgerald and his Clare side will be shattered by defeat, but they too had individual stars, with Tony Kelly topping their possession count with a fine tally of 21, followed by Shane O’Donnell with 16, Seadhna Morey with 15 and Colin Ryan and Conor McGrath with 13 each.
Both Morey and Jack Browne won five puck-outs each, followed by Bill Cooper, Tony Kelly and Shane O’Donnell with four each.
Clare will rue their tally of 12 wides and 14 missed scoring opportunities in a second half where they were largely the dominant force. They dominated puck-out possession, but in a game of tight margins Pa Kelly will be disappointed that four of his puck-outs resulted in line balls to Cork, two in the crucial final ten minutes.
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