Clare aren't expecting too much and are likely to get it
THERE IS an anti-climactic sense to GAA Munster football finals where Cork or Kerry have eliminated the other along the way. Limerick have in the past decade done extremely well to dispute the notion of such pairings being a foregone conclusion but Clare are new to this stage, not having reached a final since 2000.
Under Micheál McDermott Clare have done well to reinstate themselves this season at least as the best of the rest in Munster. They also came close to securing promotion from Division Four and were disappointed to lose out to Wicklow on the last day.
Clare will also be conscious of the fact they’re playing in the context of renewed calls for the abolition of the open draw, which could make this the last non-Cork-Kerry final for a long time – ironically on the 20th anniversary of Clare’s seismic win over Kerry for what has been the only interruption of the province’s ruling duopoly since 1935.
Clare have two players who contested the final against Kerry 12 years ago, Ger Quinlan and David Russell, but overall they are considerably less experienced than the 2010 All-Ireland champions and crucially, given Cork’s strengths, a lot less physical.
Conor Counihan continues to use Nicholas Murphy in the full-forward line, leaving Aidan Walsh to get re-accustomed to what many feel is his best position at centrefield. Pearse O’Neill’s continuing unavailability reduces the mammoth options the team customarily enjoy around the middle and Daniel Goulding’s slow comeback might have some Cork fans a little concerned, given he’ll be needed for the business stages of the All-Ireland.
Clare were lively for spells last year. Graham Kelly was sent off towards the end (by tomorrow’s referee, Eddie Kinsella) and Cork cruised home but corner forward Rory Donnelly kicked five points from play, a fine tally that he’ll be under pressure to emulate with Eoin Cadogan down to mark him.
Clare aren’t expecting too much whereas Cork will just be happy to get to the great starting-line in August without any injuries.
Previously: Clare proved resistant if not altogether competitive in Páirc Uí Chaoimh last year but ended up being reduced to 14 men and Cork ran out 15-point winners. The last time the counties met in a provincial football final Cork won 3-6 to 0-7 before getting beaten by Cavan in the All-Ireland semi-final.
You bet:Untouchable. Cork are 1/100 with Clare 22/1 and the draw considered even less likely at 28/1.
Just the ticket: Stand (€35) Uncovered (€25). Terrace (€15), OAP/Student €10 stand refund). Juveniles €5.
Crystal gazing:No crystal ball required. Plain sight says Cork.
CORK: A Quirke; R Carey, M Shields, E Cadogan; P Kissane, G Canty, N O’Leary; A O’Connor, A Walsh; C Sheehan, P Kelly, P Kerrigan; C O’Neill, D O’Connor, N Murphy.
CLARE: J Hayes; K Harnett, B Duggan, L Healy; E Coughlan, G Kelly, J Hayes; G Brennan, G Quinlan; S Brennan, S McGrath, A Clohessy; R Donnelly, D Tubridy, M O’Shea.
Referee: E Kinsella (Laois).