Final drama calls for an encore as Cork and Clare play out thriller
Domhnall O’Donovan’s first ever point for Clare extends magical summer of hurling
That said, Clare still only went in 0-12 to 0-10 up at the break. For all that Cork struggled to get into the game, they only had a single wide in the first half. By contrast, Clare struck six and dropped a couple into Anthony Nash’s paw. Nash also pulled off a fine save from Darach Honan on 25 minutes to keep the margin manageable.
Clare’s problem all afternoon was that they weren’t able to open up clear water. When they came out and scored the first two points of the second half, Conor Lehane sparked Cork into life with a brilliant goal. When a couple of Colin Ryan points pushed them five clear with 15 minutes to go, Anthony Nash trundled forward to scorch a free to the net to bring it back to two.
Hanging in there
And though Conor Ryan burst forward eight minutes from time to land the score that put Clare four ahead again, it was only a prelude to a classy point from Lehane and a levelling goal from Pa Cronin. The constant feeling of Cork just about hanging in there never went away. But by extension, neither did Cork.
“I thought the game was drifting away from us once or twice,” said JBM. “That’s why I thought we showed great spirit to come back when it looked gone from us. I think with 10 minutes to go we were four down. I looked at the clock and didn’t think it was going to be our day.”
Yet Cronin’s goal reduced the whole hippy-dippy season to primordial brass tacks. See ball, win ball, hit ball. Colin Ryan and Horgan swapped frees. Tony Kelly spilled a poor wide when he had time to settle for a steadier shot.
Cork were thinking better. Not quicker, just better. Christopher Joyce found Patrick Horgan with a sideline ball and he stole Cork their first lead of the day.
Enter O’Donovan. One last Clare puck-out landed around the Cork 65 and Nicky O’Connell managed to scoop it out to the corner-back who’d tip-toed forward without any great plan in mind. Fitzgerald said afterwards that they tease O’Donovan in training about his shooting, that nine of every 10 shots he hits go wide. This was the other one.
“It was a bit of hit and hope,” said O’Donovan. “And I hit it falling over. I didn’t see the ball as it went over. I just heard the crowd. Thankfully I kind of knew then that the game was saved.”
The replay is on the last Saturday of the month, probably at five o’clock. Pity those who make other plans.