It will be close but Cork look like they have the ability to shift up another gear and win
Rebels can just about edge clash of the two best teams of 2013
Clare’s Darach Honan holds off Stephen McDonnell of Cork during the Munster SHC semi-final, a game where the Clare forward threatened to rule the roost. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
The same old clichés keep recurring: hurling-wise, it’s been a fantastic championship, reminiscent of 1995, and weather-wise it hasn’t been too bad either. It has been virtually impossible all along to know who could win any given championship game. Now, here we are at the All-Ireland final, and – intriguingly – that still holds true. It’s going to be tight and close and exciting and, at the risk of repeating myself, it’s another tough one to call.
I’ve seen Cork and Clare play twice this year, the relegation final and the semi-final of the Munster championship. That first game went to extra-time and Clare won it shooting an unbelievable amount of wides. In Limerick the second day, Cork won but Clare certainly had their chances. Darach Honan looked early on like he was going to rule the roost. But Clare missed a number of goal chances early on that would have won the game and Cork came through.
It would have taken a brave man in the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick that day to say that Cork and Clare would be playing in an All-Ireland final. You’d have been laughed at. And, yet, here we are; and, in fairness, both teams deserve to have made it all the way to this final showdown of what has been a memorable hurling championship.
Against the background of what has happened throughout the summer, with unpredictable results and underdogs winning, it is still hard to know who the winner will be here. It’s an All-Ireland final with a lot of new, young players and both managements will need to manage the pressures that come with this biggest of all hurling stages. It’s only very recently that we saw Limerick effectively failing to turn up in the semi-final.
I’m pretty sure both teams will turn up for this one and, if they do, it will be tight. Nothing can be taken for granted on that count however, given the number of newbies and young players in the teams.
Against that, Brian Murphy’s return to the Cork team brings back medals that Tom Kenny took off the team and there are multiple All-Ireland winners in selectorial roles and most pertinently Jimmy Barry-Murphy who has done it all before. The experience on the Cork sideline is massive.
It’s worth mentioning that, on the other side, Davy Fitzgerald’s experience with Waterford in the 2008 final will be telling as well. He realises that’s one where the build-up got on top of them, that the hype affected them before the game and they didn’t turn up and perform. He has learned from that and Clare have had a much more low-key build-up.