Cork must banish inconsistency to halt Clare revival
Darach Honan’s return for Fitzgerald’s side gives forward line added potency
Cork’s Mark Ellis in action against Waterford’s Jamie Barron in the Munster hurling semi-final. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
It’s been a long two years for both of these counties since they contested the memorable All-Ireland final and replay of 2013. Cork flared last summer and looked as if they could go one better, having picked up a first Munster in eight years, but that particular bonfire of the vanities went up in the All-Ireland semi-final.
There were aspects of the win over Wexford last week that were positive – the razor-sharp attacking play in the first half when the match was effectively decided, the form of Conor Lehane and how effectively Mark Ellis played the free role in defence.
Then there was the flip side of the coin: the extraordinary stasis for most of the second half when a labouring but game Wexford team reduced a 14-point deficit to six. Had a goal been within their repertoire, they might well have brought the house down.
Clare don’t even have the consolation of a provincial title since winning the All-Ireland. Their campaigns have been sluggish and this season’s has encompassed relegation followed by a timid and depressing defeat by a Limerick side rather stripped of its credentials by Tipperary last month.
What Clare do have though is the suggestion of returning momentum. There was a lively tempo to the win against Offaly, even if the match itself was hardly a titanic struggle.
Neither defence looks watertight but if last week’s suggestions that they are picking up form prove accurate, Clare’s forwards look a more reliable source of scores than Cork’s for all the individual brilliance at times demonstrated by their forwards.
The full forwards all got involved in goals against Offaly, Darach Honan providing the assist for Conor McGrath, and Shane O’Donnell also scoring.
Honan has played very little in recent times for Davy Fitzgerald’s side but his recovery from injury has rehabilitated a potent threat.
Two years ago in Limerick he had Cork rattled in the first half but goal chances created weren’t taken and Clare were outplayed in the remainder of the match, having failed to put it away.
The return of Colm Galvin has also strengthened Clare but in last week’s re-entry to orbit he looked to have a lot of work to do to get to the pace of the game after missing a couple of months abroad.
If Clare’s revival proves an illusion, Cork have every chance to stay on the road but the belief here is that it is not.