Clare continue unbeaten run with Cork win

Rampant first-half performance enough to see off Rebels in Ennis

Clare 0-23 Cork 0-19

You can’t disguise February. Clare put in a blistering first half that facilitated a handsome 10-point lead but still gave the home crowd of 4,905 a few spells of anxiety in recording their first meaningful win over Cork since that incandescent Saturday night back in 2013, when they ended up as the All-Ireland champions that nobody saw coming.

In the end, it took two brave stops from goalkeeper Donal Touhy to deny Cork the goal they needed to truly ignite a revival as the home team kept their noses in front with seven second half points. It should have been a more comfortable win; their six second half wides were a poor return from several electrifying build-up sequences. David Reidy was in June form here, cleaning up ball, hitting three smooth points from play and twice opting to play his teammates in for killer goal opportunities when he might have tapped the ball over the bar. You could argue that clipping the points would have been the safer option but if you kill that spirit of adventure in Clare's play, then you kill Clare.

"Maybe our conversation rate is something we have to look at," said Donal Moloney in pronouncing himself relatively happy. "We still had a lot of possession but probably didn't convert . . . some near misses and maybe some wrong options, but having said that Cork have a lot of quality players. They were going to come at you. There is no way we were going to continue whatever the score was at half time - 0-16. We weren't going to score 32 against them. They came right back at us and were probably unhappy with how the first half went."

Cork's troubles began with their inability to win their own restart. Clare's early scoring sharpness translated into quick man-to-man cover which forced Anthony Nash to seek out Seamus Harnedy and Robbie O'Flionn along Cork's left wing and time and time again, Clare were first to the breaking ball. Right half back Michael O'Malley atoned for a conspicuous wide with a bright first half shift and a confident strike in the 22nd minute when Clare were rampant and the Kilmaley man finished the day with the man of the match award.

Five forwards scored for Clare in the first half and Shane O'Donnell, the odd man out, was bristling with goal-intent whenever he got the ball. The midfield axis of Colm Galvin and Tony Kelly pitched in with well taken points and both wing backs added to the total. Peter Duggan had a strong first half in open play and his 0-6 from placed balls but could have left at half-time with 10 points to his name.

Clare were on top in every sector of the field. Cork's flame was kept barely alive by a few needless frees conceded by Clare which Pat Horgan converted and a fine score from play by the Glen Rovers man in the 32nd minute broke a 20 minute spell in which Clare began to put serious daylight between themselves and the Rebels. In the 26th minute, Seamus Harnedy was as surprised as anyone to find himself behind Clare's cover for a one-on-one goal chance and couldn't get a clean enough strike to beat Touhy. It ended in a 65 which, to sum up Cork's half, was fired wide.

"That 20 minutes of the first half killed us," said John Meyler. "Clare got seven or eight up and it was always going to be a case of picking off points and then getting the goal which we didn't get. We need to work on that last 20 minutes of the first half."

Cork's response was encouraging; with Horgan shooting them back into contention from placed balls and Tim O'Mahony, Christopher Joyce and Harnedy giving them a platform to reel off a series of direct, simple points which kept the contest interesting for neutrals. But time was against them and Clare always came up with an answer - and a slick pass from O'Donnell to Tony Kelly set up the score of the afternoon. It means Clare can travel to Davy Fitzgerald's patch in the southwest without any relegation worries.

“I am sure we will get a great welcome in Wexford,” added Moloney. “Always a daunting challenge to go into Wexford. They are playing really well. Saturday night I know Tipp won it, but they put them under ferocious pressure and had a couple of goal opportunities that didn’t work out. They were very much in that game and Davy has done some job with them.”

Clare: 1 D Touhy, 2 J Browne, 3 C Cleary, 4 P O'Connor; 5 M O'Malley (0-2), 6 D McInerney, 7 S Morey (0-2); 8 C Galvin (0-2), 9 T Kelly (0-2); 10 N Deasy (0-1), 11 J Conlon (0-2), 12 D Reidy (0-3); 13 S O'Donnell, 14 P Duggan (0-8, 6 frees, 2 65), 15 P Collins (0-1). Subs: 22 C Malone for 11 J Conlon (51 mins), 21 Conor McGrath for P Collins (56), 20 D Corry for 10 N Deasy (59), 17 D Fitzgerald for 5 M O'Malley (65), 25 J McCarthy for 8 C Galvin (66).

Cork: 1 A Nash, 2 S O’Donoghue, 3 E Cadogan, 4 C Spillane, 7 C Joyce, 6 T O’Mahony (0-1), 5 D Browne (0-1); 8 M Ellis (0-1), 22 D Kearney; 12 B Cooper (0-1), 11 S Harnedy (0-1), 10 R O’Flionn (0-1); 9 L Meade (0-1), 14 P Horgan (0-12, 9 frees, 2 65), 25 S Kingston. Subs: 20 L McLoughlainn for 22 D Kearney (half-time), 26 R O’Shea for 25 S Kingston (45 mins), 24 J O’Connor for 9 L Meade (52), 21 B Lawton for 10 R O’Flionn (61).

Referee: P O’Dwyer (Carlow).