O’Donnell’s hat-trick puts Clare on road to glory
Thrilling replay sees Davy Fitzgerald’s young guns see off Cork at Croke Park
Clare manager manager Davy Fitzgerald celebrates his side’s second goal against Cork during the All-Ireland Hurling Final replay at Croke Park. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Clare 5-16 Cork 3-16: An incredible hurling season got the final curtain it deserved, Clare coming through a throttling good replay with a 5-16 to 3-16 victory over Cork at Croke Park.
A first half hat-trick from 19-year-old Shane O’Donnell gave them the platform and when it was close with 10 minutes to go they found the intestinal fortitude to stretch clear. Despite the game standing level on 60 minutes, they were the only ones that did the scoring in a breathless finale.
Breathless wasn’t the half of it. The sides resumed hostilities as if the three weeks had only been a matter of someone hitting pause and then play. The last seven minutes of the drawn game had thrown up a total of 1-6, just as the first seven did here. The difference this time around was that it was Clare who did the bulk of the scoring, finding themselves 1-4 to 0-2 up and well worth such a lead.
The goals came, of course, from O’Donnell whose day of days has begun with him not even being named in the team. A late replacement for Darach Honan, he spent the first half skittering around the Clare inside forward line and wreaking utter havoc with more or less every intervention. His first goal was smartly taken, bounced low under Anthony Nash after Pat Donnellan had made a 50-yard run right down the throat of the Cork defence.
Cork stayed in touch through points from Seamus Harnedy and Conor Lehane but it was only as a prelude to O’Donnell’s second goal. Cork were aggrieved not to have been awarded a free under the Hogan Stand around their half-forward line but once James McGrath allowed play to develop, the Cork defence was in trouble. Conor McGrath fed O’Donnell and the teenager finished with aplomb. Clare 2-5 Cork 0-4 and we’d only had 13 minutes.
All the same, it was long past time that Cork got in on the act. Another Lehane point kept them breathing and on 17 minutes Anthony Nash trotted forward for a free. Clare put 13 players on the line but they still couldn’t keep his shot out. Somehow, despite Clare having played all the hurling, there was only a goal in it.
Not for long. Within three minutes, O’Donnell had his hat-trick. Conor McGrath and William Egan tussled under a high ball and when the ball broke loose, O’Donnell scooped it up. His finish was the best of the three, a short-grip tap down past Nash. It meant that in the opening 20 minutes, O’Donnell had scored 3-1 having touched the ball just four times.
On top of which, it meant that Clare were 3-6 to 1-6 up. And it got worse for Cork before it got better, a Tony Kelly point and a couple of Colin Ryan frees pushing them 3-9 to 1-7 up with five minutes to go to the break. If Cork were going to have any say in this replay, they were going to have to have it soon. They couldn’t go in at half-time with the game out of reach.