Cork machine clicks into gear as Clare get rolled aside
Midfield dominance helps Rebels set up another Munster decider with Limerick
Cork’s Aidan Walsh collects a high ball ahead of the Clare duo of Pat Donnellan and John Conlon during the Munster SHC semi-final at Semple Stadium in Thurles. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
Cork 2-23 Clare 2-18: Cork reversed the findings of last year’s All-Ireland final by defeating champions Clare on their first championship outing in this afternoon’s GAA Munster hurling semi-final in Thurles.
Their engine running smoothly after last week’s replay win over Waterford, Cork kicked on again to dominate Clare for whom late scores added a gloss to the scoreboard.
The All-Ireland champions never got going and their key players were unable to make an impact. Hurler of the Year Tony Kelly struggled to influence proceedings with Christopher Joyce marking him tightly and of the other forwards only John Conlon, who scored 1-2, made a significant contribution.
They were cleaned out in centrefield – both starting players were replaced – where dual player Aidan Walsh emphasised the improvement he’s brought to the sector by plucking a couple of titanic high balls and punishing Clare with driving runs. Beside him Daniel Kearney’s sniping, perpetual motion was an ideal foil and he helped himself to three points.
Scoring honours went as usual to Patrick Horgan who ended the day with 2-11, all from placed balls; having been called on to take Cork into the post-Nash era, he crashed home a free from just beyond the 20-metre line and added a penalty in the second half.
It was a thunderous encounter with an atmospheric crowd of nearly 30,000. Cork pulled remorselessly away after the first quarter ended although a promising looking six-point lead, 1-13 to 0-10 in first-half injury-time was halved after Conlon got his stick to the ball as it ricocheted around the Cork goalmouth after Stephen McDonnell had been able only to break a dropping ball.
Although Clare had chances on the re-start it was Cork who opened the scoring in an evenly contested third quarter and who kept forging ahead until the All-Ireland champions’ challenge was effectively broken.
Kearney had two, rapid-fire points to push Cork seven ahead in the 48th minute and although a Clare rally, led by replacements Nicky O’Connell and Cathal McInerney reduced the margin by three, Horgan’s 59th-minute penalty after referee James McGrath had penalised Brendan Bugler for pulling down Séamus Harnedy in the square, restored the differential.
Cork sub Paudie O’Sullivan for the second week running pointed with his first touch of the match after being well supplied by Patrick Cronin, who gave another improved display after a difficult start to the season.
Nash and McDonnell got in each other’s way to serve up a goal for Darach Honan, the scorer of Clare’s fifth goal last September but that was the only echo of the champions’ pomp on a day when Cork’s impressively rebuilt side reached a second successive Munster final against Limerick, this time in Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
CORK: 1 Anthony Nash; 3 Damien Cahalane (0-1), 4 Stephen McDonnell, 2 Shane O’Neill; 6 Mark Ellis, 5 Christopher Joyce, 7 Lorcán McLoughlin; 8 Daniel Kearney (0-3), 9 Aidan Walsh (0-1); 12 Séamus Harnedy, 11 Bill Cooper, 10 Conor Lehane (0-2); 13 Alan Cadogan (0-3), 14 Patrick Cronin (capt), 15 Patrick Horgan (2-11, all frees).
Subs: 23 Stephen Moylan for Cooper, 19 William Egan (0-1) for Kearney (both 59 mins), 26 Paudie O’Sullivan (0-1) for Harnedy (60 mins), 20 Eoin Cadogan for Ellis (67 mins).
CLARE: 1 Donal Tuohy; 2 David McInerney, 3 Cian Dillon, 4 Jack Browne; 5 Brendan Bugler, 6 Conor Ryan, 7 Patrick O’Connor; 8 Colm Galvin (0-2), 9 Patrick Donnellan (capt) (0-1); 10 John Conlon (1-2), 11 Tony Kelly (0-1), 12 Colin Ryan (0-6, five frees, one 65); 21 Peter Duggan, 15 Conor McGrath (0-2), 13 Pádraic Collins (0-1).
Subs: 17 Séadna Morey for Browne (half-time), 20 Nicky O’Connell (0-2) for Donnellan (46 mins, 23 Cathal McInerney (0-1) for Galvin (51 mins), 14 Darach Honan (1-0) for Donnellan (63 mins).
Referee: James McGrath (Westmeath)