Cork’s rise continues as they hold off Clare and the brilliance of Tony Kelly

Banner’s golden spell fades away too early as Kieran Kingston’s side march on

Cork’s Shane Kingston scores a goal during the All-Ireland SHC round two qualifier against Clare at the LIT Gaelic Grounds. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Cork’s Shane Kingston scores a goal during the All-Ireland SHC round two qualifier against Clare at the LIT Gaelic Grounds. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

 

Cork 3-19 Clare 1-23

In Clare, they lay all their songs at Tony Kelly’s feet. Rightly so. The Ballyea man gave another revelatory performance as Clare bowed on a baking Saturday afternoon. It wasn’t enough. Brian Lohan’s men are out.

And what a hot test of courage and resilience and a superbly poised closing act this was for Cork to come through. This hectic struggle was played in the home of the All-Ireland champions but it couldn’t have felt more like a Clare home tie had they played in Lisdoonvarna during festival time.

Cork could have melted in the sun during what proved to be Clare’s crescendo on the hour mark, with Shane Golden and Diarmuid Ryan finding space to push the Banner into a 0-21 to 2-14 lead to rapturous returns from the crowd. There were only 3,500 in the ground: they must have all carried megaphones.

Maybe Clare mistimed the aria slightly. There was still a full 10 minutes of normal time to get through. During Clare’s happy time, Kieran Kingston introduced a series of substitutes to devastating effect, a further example of Cork’s emerging talent.

Shane Barrett fired 1-1 from play, his goal the last example of the burning speed on this Cork team. Alan Connolly also had a point from play. And Pat Horgan, not as vivid a leader as Kelly but just as vital, was brilliantly controlled in the white heat, calmly responding to a missed 65 by getting free for two points from play which tilted the momentum back in Cork’s favour.

Kelly, though, is a genius in defeat as much as victory. He might have won this at the death. With Clare trailing by five with 71 minutes on the clock, he went into the edge of the square. He immediately plucked a high ball out of the sun, won a penalty through a foul that saw Niall O’Leary, who was asked to mark the un-markable, red carded.

With Jack O’Connor having left the field a minute earlier on a second yellow, Cork were down to 13. Kelly’s finish with the placed ball was brilliant. A murmur now through the crowd. To ask for a win with so little time was impossible. But so what?

Cork’s Mark Coleman challenges Aron Shanagher of Clare during the All-Ireland SHC round two qualifier at the LIT Gaelic Grounds. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
Cork’s Mark Coleman challenges Aron Shanagher of Clare during the All-Ireland SHC round two qualifier at the LIT Gaelic Grounds. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Diarmuid Ryan managed to lob a ball goalward while on one knee. It seemed to hang in the sunshine forever as backs and forwards eyed it up. It didn’t fall close to Kelly but you knew he would somehow get in his hand anyways. So he did. A sidestep, a jink and the whole afternoon was up for grabs now, the tacticians and coaches and crowd spellbound and hapless. He might have tapped over and hoped for a break and a late equalising chance. But you have to figure he computed the seconds left as he travelled. He went for it all. Patrick Collins, the Cork goalkeeper, had the measure of the shot. Cork cleared and that was that.

“ There is always pressure,” Kieran Kingston said of the build-up to the game. They have worked so hard and been so honest and they have shown great character all year. It was important that they transfer that to the field today.

“The most pleasing thing to me, aside from that win, is that character down the stretch. They are coming at you in waves. Clare are a serious team and we can’t underestimate what they bring to the table – their honesty and integrity. They reflect their manager. The never say die attitude. They keep coming at you. So it was a massive test for us.”

This qualifier enhanced the theme of pot-boiling hurling brilliance. It wasn’t the tidiest of games and Clare will look at the missed chances – seven wides during their thunderous revival and know they left a few behind.

Cork set out to pressure Clare full-back line with route one ball dropping on Horgan and O’Connor from the beginning. They were rewarded with two goals and in the cool of the dressingroom at half-time must have realised they should have had four.

The Clare defence dealt with battles in the air convincingly but were unpicked by a few moments of Cork guile. O’Connor turned sharply on an angled ball from Tim O’Mahony and took his marker Rory Hayes on in a straight sprint – no easy feat. His finish, at an angle and at full speed was excellent.

But two minutes later, O’Connor was in again, forcing a terrific save from Eibhear Quilligan. Séamus Harnedy broke the lines again two minutes before half-time and the warning signs were lit for Clare. It was Shane Kingston who breached them the second time, running onto a weighted pass and although his flick to Horgan was under-played, the Glen man somehow contrived a return pass and Kingston’s finish was clean.

A dejected Tony Kelly after the game. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
A dejected Tony Kelly after the game. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Colm Galvin replied with a late point for Clare: that score along with the 0-3 from play by Cathal Malone kept Clare in touch after a battling first half during which they annoyed themselves by firing 10 wides.

Rob Downey, pressed into service at full back, had an excellent afternoon for Cork, making a huge block on Gary Cooney who found himself with a goal chance seconds after taking to the field in the 66th minute.

In a way, the game was only getting started then.

This senior win is the grace note to a fine week for Cork hurling. There is a sense of the old empire consolidating and building. “The graph only seems to be going one way,” noted Clare manager Brian Lohan.

“Every single result you look at they seem to be winning. Just doing a lot of things right and credit to them, they are a great county,” he said before loping towards the remainder of the summer.

CORK: 1 P Collins; 4 S O’Donoghue, 3 R Downey, 7 G Millerick; 5 T O’Mahony, 2 N O’Leary, 6 M Coleman; 8 D Fitzgibbons (0-2), 9 L Meade (0-1); 10 S Harnedy (0-1), 14 S Kingston (1-1), 12 R O’Flynn (0-1); 13 A Cadogan, 15 J O’Connor (1-0), 11 P Horgan (0-11, four frees, two 65s ).

Substitutes: 24 S Barrett (1-1) for 13 A Cadogan (half-time), 22 C Cahalane for 5 T O’Mahony (59 mins), 25 A Connolly (0-1) for 14 S Kingston (61 mins), 26 T Deasy for 10 S Harnedy (70 mins), 21 B Cooper for 8 D Fitzgibbon (71 mins).

CLARE: 1 E Quilligan; 2 R Hayes (0-1), 3 C Cleary, 4 P Flanagan; 5 D Ryan (0-1), 6 J Conlon, 18 D McInerney (0-1); 15 R Taylor (0-1), 9 C Malone (0-3); 8 I Galvin (0-1), 11 T Kelly (1-11, pen, five frees), 12 A McCarthy (0-2); 13 D Reidy, 14 I Galvin (0-1), 10 A Shanagher.

Substitutes: 19 M Rogers for 14 I Galvin (28 mins), 25 S Golden (0-1) for 19 M Rogers (55 mins), 17 J Browne for 8 C Galvin (57 mins), 24 G Cooney for 10 A Shanagher (66 mins),

Referee: J Keenan (Wicklow).

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