Clare consign Cork to the drop in an epic encounter
Colin Ryan the hero for the Banner as Jimmy Barry-Murphy says his side will accept relegation with dignity
Clare's Davy Fitzgerald celebrates at the final whistle. ©INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan
Colin Ryan emerged the hero as Clare preserved their top-division status and plunged Cork into Division One B after an epical play-off at Limerick Gaelic Grounds before 5,204 delighted spectators.
Clare manager Davy Fitzgerald was pleased with the win but he suggested that the top division should be increased to 10 teams with the games commencing in January.
Jimmy Barry-Murphy admitted to being disappointed. But he would not be drawn on whether the league should be extended. “We were relegated before and came back to win the All-Ireland. We will go down with dignity,” he said.
Ryan scored nine points for the winners but he might well have been the villan had his side not prevailed as he missed a number of frees on the day.
Within seconds of the throw-in Luke O’Farrell pointed for Cork and this was a lead they never lost in an opening half that produced only four scores in the first 10 minutes.
John Conlon had a splendid Clare point after three minutes and that was the only time they were level in the half.
Pat Horgan, Cork, and Colin Ryan exchanged points from frees but by the 23rd minute Cork had moved into a double scores advantage, 0-8 to 0-4 thanks mainly to the free taking of Pat Horgan who contributed five of their first-half points, four from frees.
Clare pulled back three points without reply courtesy of two by Tony Kelly and a free by Colin Ryan and only a point separated them thanks to a splendid effort by substitute Conor McGrath.
But Cork finished the half stronger with points from Cronin, Conor Lehane and a Horgan free for an interval lead of 0-11 to 0-7 having played with the aid of the strong, swirling wind.
Cork led 0-16 to 0-14 16 minutes into the second half and a minute later they struck their first goal. Clare goalkeeper Patrick Kelly made two superb blocks but Luke O’Farrell shot low at the third attempt.
It seemed Clare’s chance was gone at that stage and they were still four points behind after 55 minutes. Six minutes from the end it was all square, Cork 1-17 to Clare 0-20, and amazingly the Banner went in front for only the first time five minutes from the end when Ryan pointed from play.
Only two minutes remained when Cork regained the lead with their second goal. A superb catch by Pat Cronin saw him round his marker and kick the ball to the net for a two-point lead, 2-17 to 0-21.
Points by Tony Kelly and Ryan, another free in stoppage time, tied it up at the end of normal time.
Cork played into the wind in the first half of extra-time and Cian McCarthy nudged them back in front. McGrath levelled again and by half-time Clare led 0-27 to 2-19 thanks to points by Cathal McInerney, Ryan and Colm Galvin after Cork goalie Anthony Nash made a magnificent save from Peter Duggan.
Tony Kelly and Cathal Naughton swopped points as did Fergal Lynch and O’Farrell.
In a gripping finale Conlon had a point but Cork were not finished and a pointed free by Horgan and another by Cathal Naughton kept Clare on edge before they won through.
CLARE: P Kelly (0-1 free) ; D O’Donovan, D McInerney, S Morey; B Bugler, P Donnellan, P O’Connor; D Honan (0-2) , Conor Ryan; J Conlon (0-4) , T Kelly (0-6) , Colin Ryan (0-9, five frees) , C Galvin (0-3) , S O'Donnell, P Collins (0-1) . Subs: C McGrath( 0-3) for Conor Ryan (25 mins), P Duggan for Collins (64 mins), C McInerney (0-1) for O’Donnell (68 mins), J Clancy for Honan (80 mins) , F Lynch (0-1) for Duggan (85 mins) .
CORK: A Nash; K Murphy, B Murphy, C O'Sullivan (0-1) ; S White, C Joyce, W Egan; L McLoughlin, D Kearney (0-1) ; C Lehane (0-1) , P O’Sullivan, P Cronin (1-3) ; S Moylan (0-1) , L O'Farrell (1-2) , P Horgan 0-11 (seven frees) . Subs: T Kenny for McLoughlin (52 mins), C McCarthy (0-1) for Moylan (60 mins), C Spillane for K Murphy (62 mins), C Naughton (0-2) for White (66 mins), B Nartnett for P O’Sullivan, P O'Brien for Lehane (both 86 mins).
Referee: J McGrath (Westmeath).