Clare draw strength from an epic finish and live to fight another day
Banner rescue final with last-gasp point after dominating for 70 minutes
Clare’s manager Davy Fitzgerald celebrates after his side win a line ball in yesterday’s All-Ireland Senior Hurling Final against Cork. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
ALL-IRELAND SHC FINAL:
CORK 3-16 CLARE 0-25
If there had been any doubt about the ability of the All-Ireland hurling final to deliver an appropriate climax to what had already been a remarkable season, it was dispelled by the final whistle.
A second successive drawn final was one claim to distinction but more eye-poppingly than that was how close Cork came to winning an All-Ireland after being dominated for virtually the entire match and only taking the lead with less than a minute on the clock.
In the time remaining Luke O’Farrell hustled a line ball off Clare goalkeeper Patrick Kelly and with the sands running into the bottom of the hourglass, Stephen Moylan appeared to have executed that great staple of Gaelic games: the wide that’s as good as a point.
Referee Brian Gavin allowed his discretion free rein however and in the extra 30 seconds or so there was time for corner back Domhnall O’Donovan to land a fittingly spectacular equaliser.
The theft of a match wouldn’t have been the only issue Clare would have had with the one-point defeat. Cork full back Shane O’Neill should have walked in the 17th minute for striking Darach Honan with his hurl; instead both players were enigmatically yellow carded.
There were other controversies – eg another example of the game’s unflaggingly useless “advantage” protocols, which saw David McInerney waved on after getting a whack on the hand and then whistled up for over-carrying, which ended in a pointed free for Cork – but Clare had so much of the match that it’s difficult to credit even now that they didn’t end the afternoon as comfortable winners of their fourth All-Ireland.
The contest never really even got as far as tactics. Clare were set up in comparatively orthodox fashion and were so dominant that there was no urgency on Patrick Donnellan’s role as sweeper.
Conor Ryan had a storming match at centre back but his colleagues in the half-back line Brendan Bugler and Patrick O’Connor plucked down ball at will and only Séamus Harnedy of the starting Cork half forwards put up any resistance.
Inside, Patrick Horgan’s frees were a lifeline for Jimmy Barry-Murphy’s team but the forwards managed just two points from play in the first half.
Clare’s attack was more sprightly and threatening and five of them had scored from play before half-time plus Colin Ryan’s free taking was as unerring as Horgan’s. John Conlon, around whom injury speculation had swirled, had his best match of the championship and Pádraic Collins continued his phenomenal form of late, this time from a slightly more advanced position.He ended the day with three points from play and winning at least that number of converted frees.