Clare’s non-scoring defender proves to be the great leveller
Corner back was an unlikely player to take the late responsibilty
Domhnall O’Donovan of Clare shoots his last-gasp equaliser yesterday. Photograph: Dara MacDónaill
And so it will be written into folklore – at least for the next three weeks – that when Clare had one last shot to save their All-Ireland title hopes, the ball fell into the hands of the only player on the field that they did not want it to.
With the clock running at 72 minutes and 29 seconds, nothing left only the time it would take to take for the final whistle to be blown, Clare needed their sharpest assassin, a guided missile, some blazing laser beam, or indeed anything at all expect for Domhnall O’Donovan.
Here was their corner back, the only man who could not score in the 20-point win over Laois earlier in the summer, when every other Clare outfield player could; here was the man who had never scored for Clare in the championship; here was the man about to fall over as he set himself up the shot.
So what O’Donovan did with that shot went beyond reason, and indeed words. Except to say on an afternoon at least partly marked by Clare’s repeated fist pumping, O’Donovan afforded himself the most deserving of them all, moments after his shot somehow dropped between the Cork posts.
It did however take a while to register, and still seemed to be registering in O’Donovan’s mind long after that final whistle: yet how utterly fitting that after a summer of hurling that no true admirer wanted to end, his shot ensured another chapter is still to be written.
“Well I did have a bit of a look, so I wouldn’t be closing my eyes and shooting,” he says, recalling his shot with modesty and just a hint of the heroic. “Growing up, my left side was always my best side, even though I’m a right handed hurler. Although the lads said it went so high in the sky they didn’t know where it was going.”
Indeed no one did, until the umpire reached down for the white flag: luckily for us the 25-year-old from Clonlara can also happily recall how exactly he ended up with the ball.
“Well Patrick Kelly had the ball, for the puck out. I wasn’t looking for the ball, but I just said to myself I’d make myself available. Because my job as a defender is over. I mean, if Cork scored again, it wouldn’t make a difference. So I just said I’ll make myself available, and if he thinks I’m the right person to give the ball to he can.
“But, somehow it went to Pat O’Connor and Nicky O’Connell, and then Nicky popped it out to me. It was a bit of hit and hope. And I hit it falling over. I didn’t see the ball too much as it went over. I just heard the crowd so thankfully I kind of knew then that the game was saved.”