Clare fluff their lines in the first half, as Cork take centre stage with the wind at their backs
Great victory for Cork manager Jimmy Barry-Murphy
Clare’s Cian Dillon and Patrick Horgan tussle for possession with Cian McCarthy of Cork. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
Old hierarchies prevailed at the Gaelic Grounds yesterday, as Clare’s promise withered away in the face of familiar oppressors, as Cork – not exactly gnarled veterans themselves - hung in during a tricky first half and then harnessed the strong wind in the second half to sail on to a comfortable victory.
It was a great victory for manager Jimmy Barry-Murphy, who has had to deal with a disappointing league campaign and relegation as well as injuries to important players.
In the end though they performed with an assurance befitting the county’s traditions and showed plenty of energy throughout, never allowing a disappointing Clare’s hard running attacking game to take off, apart from a couple of cameos from Colm Galvin who took points after breaking from centrefield, let alone pressurise them.
A range of 10 different scorers and an eagerness to wrest back the initiative in the third quarter – when they completed an unbroken nine-point scoring run to turn the match upside down – plus the impact of their quality half forwards (wing forward Séamus Harnedy was the television Man of the Match) in sabotaging Clare’s more influential line all contributed to the satisfying win, which takes Cork to its first Munster final in three years.
Cork also had big performances from Patrick Horgan, who top-scored with eight, half from play, Daniel Kearney at centrefield and Brian Murphy, who successfully brought his man marking skills to bear on Tony Kelly whose punchy running from centre forward has been a large weapon in Clare’s arsenal.
A crestfallen Clare manager Davy Fitzgerald emphasised that his team had worked extraordinarily hard for the past 18 months and would go back and knuckle down again, but there was a flatness about the second half performance that was no match for the growing pep in Cork’s performance.
Fitzgerald acknowledged that the difficulties arose from a failure to take more than a three-point lead in at half-time – 0-11 to 0-8 – or to show more composure early in the second half.
Although that was an accurate outline there were more extensive problems. In the early stages Clare looked at their most convincing but they were undone by the familiar failings of not scoring goals although several serviceable chances came their way.
Tony Kelly went for goal in the ninth minute from a close-in free but Anthony Nash saved well, albeit at the cost of a 65 that put Clare 0-2 to 0-1 ahead. Full forward Darach Honan was in flying form and beat Stephen McDonnell almost at will and pounced for points in the 12th and 13th minutes but there were goals there.
Pádraic Collins was also a threat and ended up with his side’s top score – five points from play – but he put the ball wide just before Honan’s first score after being well placed on goal. At the end of the half Honan pulled on a ball after a promising attack had broken down.
All the while Cork chipped away, taking points here and there and occasionally causing alarm in the Clare defence. Nash made light of the wind to hit a long-range free at the end of the half to cut the deficit to three, making Barry-Murphy, who reckoned it a six- or seven-point wind, the happier manager at half-time.
Eight unanswered points in the third quarter bent the match out of recognition. Fitzgerald had a point about his team’s fascination with trying for goals just after half-time – Conor McGrath especially – but Cork were calmly transacting business at the other end with replacement Jamie Coughlan getting a couple, Horgan nailing his frees and Cian McCarthy chipping in before Collins stopped the rot at the start of the final quarter.
Cork none the less responded with the next three points, all from play, by Horgan, Luke O’Farrell and Conor Lehane.
Clare were bereft of the sort of penetration that would give hope of the goals, which were clearly going to be necessary to save the day. The old curse of giving away ball afflicted them and a couple of scores were self-inflicted.
There was some controversy afterwards with Fitzgerald unhappy about a concussion injury to John Conlon and a fairly one-way free count but he reined in the inclination to detail his grievances and said instead that he would contact the appropriate authorities.
Cork remained sharp to the end – corner back Shane O’Neill blocking Collins in the dying minutes – before Horgan availed of another turnover to conclude the scoring.
CLARE: 1 P Kelly; 2 D O’Donovan, 3 D McInerney, 4 C Dillon; 7 P O’Connor, 6 P Donnellan, 5 B Bugler; 20 N O’Connell, 8 C Galvin (0-2); 10 J Conlon, 11 T Kelly (0-1), 12. Colin Ryan (0-2, 65 and free); 15 C McGrath (0-3), 14 D Honan (0-2), 24 P Collins (0-5). Subs: 21 A Cunningham for Conlon (21 mins), 22 F Lynch for Ryan (42 mins), 9 S Morey for O’Connell (54 mins), 13 S O’Donnell for McGrath (61 mins). Yellow cards: Donnellan (46 mins), Lynch (47 mins), O’Donovan (52 mins), O’Connell (54 mins), Bugler (67 mins), Morey (68 mins).
CORK: 1 A Nash (0-2, frees); 5 S O’Neill, 2 S McDonnell, 4 C O’Sullivan; 6 C Joyce, 3 B Murphy, 7 W Egan (0-1); 8 T Kenny, 9 D Kearney (0-1); 11 S Harnedy (0-3), 10 C McCarthy (0-1), 12 C Lehane (0-2); 13 P Horgan (0-8, four frees), 14 L O’Farrell (0-2), 15 S Moylan. Subs: 23 J Coughlan (0-2) for Moylan (33 mins), 25. P Cronin (0-1) for C McCarthy (62 mins). Yellow cards: O’Sullivan (8 mins), Egan (34 mins), Cronin (67 mins).
Referee: Barry Kelly (Westmeath).