Venue: Pairc Uí Rinn.
A more balanced Cork outfit ended Clare’s 2015 Munster campaign with a convincing home win. Ultimately the absence of Pádraic Collins, Shane McGrath, David Tubridy, Shane Brennan, Cathal McInerney and Enda Coughlan made the mountain too high for Clare to climb and Cork’s more clinical nature booked a date with Kerry in the Munster final.
Centre-back Brian O’Driscoll was first on the scoresheet with a fine kick off his right boot when the contest was a minute old. Dean Ryan replied for the Banner three minutes after following good work from Jamie Malone and Pat Burke. A Gary Brennan free dropped into the hands of Pat Burke on the sixth minute and the Kilmacud Crokes man fired the ball over the bar to put Clare in the lead for the only time in the game.
Brian O’Driscoll equalised for the Rebels when he made a brave run from defence to kick over Joe Hayes’ crossbar. Two points in succession from the boot of Donnacha O’Connor put Cork back in front with ten minutes played.
Castlehaven’s Brian Hurley made an impression with his first touch of the game with a point off his left leg and Colm O’Neill raised his first white flag of the outing with a free from forty five yards out on the sixteenth minute.
Joe Hayes pulled off a fantastic save to deny Alan O’Connor a certain goal which would have really stung the Clare cause at a time when they were struggling to make any inroads. Donnacha O’Connor finished off a Cork attack that all began when Conor Dorman made an important turnover with a point on the twenty first minute to increase their lead to five points.
Captain, Gary Brennan ended a sixteen minute spell without a Clare score when he pointed from 20 metres after Miltown men Gordon Kelly and Eoin Cleary created the score. Brennan was on hand once more as he offloaded to midfield partner Cathal O’Connor and the Coolmeen kicked the ball straight between the sticks from twenty five yards on the twenty seventh minute. Two Colm O’Neill frees extended the advantage of Brian Cuthbert’s men to six points as the half-time whistle sounded.
The second half started just like the opening thirty five minutes had ended as Clare hit bad wides and Cork dominated with five points on the trot via Donnacha O’Connor on the double, Paul Kerrigan, Colm O’Neill and Mark Collins.
St Flannans school teacher Gary Brennan opened Clare’s second half account with sixteen minutes gone from a placed ball. The Leesiders responded with an excellent score from Nemo Rangers man Paul Kerrigan to increase their lead to eleven points.
Colm Collins’ charges received a significant boost when Coolmeen man Cathal O’Connor raised the first green flag of the evening. Minor Keelan Sexton played the ball into the hands of Gary Brennan on the edge of the square and he found Eoin Cleary who offloaded to O’Connor with the engineer hitting the back of Ken O’Halloran’s net.
Fintan Gould made his presence known immediately after coming on as he fisted the ball over the bar with fifty four minutes played. Ballyclough’s Colm O’Neill pushed Cork further in front with another free.
Matters got worse for the Banner when Kevin Hartnett was adjudged to have footblocked Paddy Kelly and Donnacha O’Connor slotted the resulting penalty past Joe Hayes to increase the Rebels’ lead to thirteen points.
Substitute John Hayes added two points after his introduction with Jamie Malone adding a score for the Saffron and Blue with twenty seven minutes played in the second half. Clare finished well with a nice team move completed with a Davy O’Halloran point while Cathal O’Connor added a 45 to leave twelve points between the sides at full-time.
Having received a major fright against Tipperary at this stage last year, Cork were eager not to make the same mistakes this time round. The wounds from their League final defeat are still raw and this ensured Brian Cuthbert’s starting fifteen were determined to set the record straight while each player had to prove a point to warrant their selection.
Overall the Cork management will be pleased with their display over the seventy minutes. Had Clare been more clinical in front of goal, this game could have panned out in a totally different way. The Rebels had their study done and passed this test with ease as a result. Brian O’Driscoll, Conor Dorman, Donnacha O’Connor and Stephen Cronin were prominent for the winners.
Hitting nine scores in seventy minutes rarely wins a match especially against quality opposition. In the opening half, Clare went eighteen minutes without a score while it took sixteen minutes in the second half for the Banner to get on the scoreboard. Key to their defeat today was their failings up front, while Clare were without some of the best players in their panel, they still created chances but crucially couldn’t take them; Clare hit fourteen wides; ten in the first half while Cork had five wides in the entire game.
It’s the qualifiers now for Clare and the ability is certainly there in their ranks to bounce back and have a long summer. They will take pride from the fact that kept going until the final whistle and this test will stand to the Banner as they prepare for their next outing. It has been said that Clare need to take a scalp of one of the big teams and they will do that provided they put in a performance that does themselves justice. Gordon Kelly kept the Clare defence solid throughout and he was assisted by Kevin Hartnett and Joe Hayes while Keelan Sexton got onto a lot of ball in his first Championship start.
Clare: Joe Hayes (Lissycasey), Ciarán Russell (Éire Óg), Kevin Hartnett (Meelick), Martin McMahon (Kilmurry/Ibrickane); Shane Hickey (Kilmurry/Ibrickane), Gordon Kelly (St Josephs Miltown), Dean Ryan (Éire Óg) (0-01); Gary Brennan (Clondegad) (0-02 1f), Cathal O’Connor (Coolmeen) (1-02 1’45); Seán Collins (Cratloe), Jamie Malone (Corofin) (0-01), Keelan Sexton (Kilmurry/Ibrickane); Rory Donnelly (Cooraclare), Pat Burke (Kilmacud Crokes) (0-01); Eoin Cleary (St Josephs Miltown). Subs: Chris Dunning (Wolfe Tones na Sionna) for Donnelly (HT), Davy O’Halloran (Éire Óg) (0-01) for Burke (56), Cian O’Dea (Kilfenora) for Cleary (60).
Cork: Ken O’Halloran (Bishopstown), Conor Dorman (Bishopstown), Michael Shiels (St Finbarr’s), James Loughrey (Mallow); Stephen Cronin (Nemo Rangers), Brian O’Driscoll (Tadhg MacCarthaigh) (0-02), Barry O’Driscoll (Nemo Rangers); Alan O’Connor (St Colum’s), Kevin O’Driscoll (Tadhg MacCarthaigh); Colm O’Driscoll (Tadhg MacCarthaigh), Mark Collins (Castlehaven) (0-02), Paul Kerrigan (Nemo Rangers) (0-02); Colm O’Neill (Ballyclough) (0-05 3f), Brian Hurley (Castlehaven) (0-02), Donnacha O’Connor (Ballydesmond) (1-05 1’Pen, 3f). Subs: Paddy Kelly (Ballincollig) for Hurley (49), Ruairí Deane (Bantry Blues) for A O’Connor (52), Fintan Gould (Macroom) (0-01) for C O’Driscoll (52), John Hayes (Carbery Rangers) (0-02) for D O’Connor (59).
Referee: Joe McQuillan (Cavan).