Cork wreak vengeance for All-Ireland defeat
Champions Clare left standing by powerful display from Jimmy Barry-Murphy’s improving team
Cork 2-23 Clare 2-18
Last year’s memorable All-Ireland final and replay were characterised by an outgunned Cork somehow staying in touch with superior opponents and even getting within a few second of a bravura act of larceny.
All things change and yesterday in a highly charged Semple Stadium it was Clare who struggled to cope with the power of the opposition but on this occasion the superior team were in no mood to let their advantages slip.
The five-point margin was flattering to Clare in that a goal came at the end from Darach Honan, whose lively cameo in the final 10 minutes questioned the decision to omit him from the starting line-up.
For all of their youth and vigour, Clare looked washed out, as if the intensity of last year’s All-Ireland followed by an energetic league and with key players also involved in the under-21 championship had all accumulated to leave them jaded in the face of motivated opponents, who had spent a bitter winter and spring repairing critical areas of the team and who have so far restated a formidable challenge.
They have rookies in nearly every line of the field – allowing that Damien Cahalane has some previous championship experience from two years ago – and they all have brought improvement.
Early noticeThe most noticeable sector was centrefield where the county’s latest dual player Aidan Walsh built on his obvious assets of power and athleticism to deliver a dominant display. That combined with the dynamism and tidiness of Daniel Kearney overwhelmed Clare’s All Star pairing of Patrick Donnellan and Colm Galvin, both of whom were replaced before the end.
Walsh gave early notice in the first minute with a skyscraper fetch in the middle and his performance developed from there.
Clare’s problems were most pithily stated in the form – or absence thereof – of their leading lights from last year. Hurler of the Year Tony Kelly couldn’t get a run on Christopher Joyce and apart from one typically breathtaking point from a narrow angle in the right corner, he didn’t get on the scoreboard.
Pádraic Collins, whose deft touches and vision had been a shining light in Clare’s march to glory last year, was also muted. Ironically it was their half backs, whose form as a unit had been questioned in the run-up to yesterday that escaped most damage. Only Conor Lehane of Cork’s half forwards raised a flag but their work rate was admirable and they contributed to a formidable team effort.
Even Colin Ryan, whose dead ball dependability had underwritten Clare’s success, had by his standards a humdrum day, missing a couple of frees.
His opposite number Patrick Horgan had no such difficulties and fired 2-11 – one goal a free from 22 or so metres and the other a penalty to mark his assumption of that responsibility from goalkeeper Anthony Nash whose pioneering technique last year had been outlawed just days before the match.
Became clearThis became clear in the 15th minute when Horgan took a free from about 25 metres and despite the great intakes of breath around the ground, as a goal-bound thrash was anticipated, the Cork marksman simply pointed.
It was a significant score however, as it gave Cork the lead for the first time and they were never headed again. Clare hung on in the second quarter and three times equalised before Cork began to stretch away.
Cahalane – playing out the field to mark Peter Duggan–- bombed over a point from around 80 metres and Horgan punished Clare’s deteriorating discipline with a clutch of frees, the last of which ended up in the net for a lead of 1-13 to 0-10.
The writing would have been fairly graphically on the wall had John Conlon not scrambled an answering goal in injury-time to cut the deficit in half. It was remission rather than revival.
Clare started the second half in reasonable fettle but ended up conceding the first score of the half to another free. Referee James McGrath provoked unhappiness in Clare by awarding frees apparently more easily to Cork but that wasn’t the root of the All-Ireland champions’ problems.
Manager David Fitzgerald had acted to shore up the defence by replacing debutant Jack Browne at half-time after the Ballyea defender had picked up yellow for a foul on the quicksilver Alan Cadogan. With no respite on the horizon it was deemed more sensible to let Séadna Morey take up the task of subduing the Cork corner forward with a clean slate.
Kearney’s afternoon peaked with two glorious points in the 48th minute to open up a seven-point lead, 1-20 to 1-13. By this stage Clare were looking for further fixes and Nicky O’Connell was brought in for captain Patrick Donnellan at centrefield and chipped in with a point.
First touchAnother replacement Cathal McInerney also scored another and when Conor McGrath added a third, Clare had a bit of momentum but that evaporated when Horgan converted a penalty to reverse the inroads.
What remained was shapeless and loose. Paudie O’Sullivan came on for Cork and for a second successive week, shot a point with his first touch, courtesy of an assist from captain Patrick Cronin, whose recent improvement in form was maintained.
Nash and McDonnell got in each other’s way to create a chance for Honan, who finished to the net and with five points in it and two minutes of injury-time there was an outside prospect of a late surge. Cork however were relatively untroubled in the time that remained. They will have further chance of redress from the other county to beat them last year, Limerick, when the Munster final takes place next month by which stage the temperature of expectation will really be rising in Cork. 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 (59 mins), 19. William Egan (0-1) for Kearney (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) Attendance: 28,660