Cork 3-16 Clare 0-25
The All-Ireland hurling final was drawn for the second consecutive year as Cork and Clare could not be separated in an exhilarating contest that was befitting of the 2013 championship as a whole. They lock horns for an unprecedented sixth time this year, Sunday fortnight. The Banner faithful will be gutted however as Clare looked five points a better team on the day. In fact Cork took the lead for the first & only time in injury time through Horgan. Brian Gavin drew the ire of the Cork following by allowing time for Domhnall O’ Donovan to go up the field to score his first ever championship score and more importantly the equaliser long after the initial two minutes of additional time had elapsed.
Clare reverted to a traditional 15 man game dispensing with the sweeper system that had served them so well in their past two championship outings. Pat Donnellan switched to midfield and kept Lorcán McLoughlin completely out of the game. Conor Ryan lined out at centre back and he along with Brendan Bugler physically out powered the Cork half forward line. Brian Murphy picked up Tony Kelly who lined out at centre forward (as selected) and the young Clare man got the better of the Bride Rovers man hitting three points in total. Shane O’ Neill picked up Honan and had him in his pocket but was fortunate to see yellow rather than red in the first half. Credit to Davy who got his match ups absolutely spot on forcing JBM to try various combinations up front and at midfield.
Clare got off to the better start but needed two inspirational Paddy Kelly saves to maintain their momentum. His first save was from Daniel Kearney and moments later he saved a 21 yard free from his opposite number Nash. It was a curious incident where Nash was nearly on the 13 by the time he struck the ball & Kelly advanced from his goal saving from just a couple of yards. It was the springboard that The Banner required and soon afterwards they found themselves four points to the good following good work from Collins, Kelly & Colin Ryan from placed balls. Cork responded well though and chipped away at the Clare lead through scores from Horgan, Kearney & Murphy (from centre back). Clare were superior to Cork in almost every facet of the game in the first half but were still only two points to the good after some wayward shooting from the Banner in the first half.
Clare again jumped out of the traps and re-established their four point lead before Conor Lehane won a Cork puck out (one of the few they actually won) and ran 70 yards blasting the ball past Kelly for the first Cork goal to revitalise their challenge at a time when it might have wilted. Moments later Collins scored one of the best points I’ve ever seen shooting over his shoulder off the stick from a tight angle. By rights it was the type of shot he never should have even taken on… Clare were first onto the breaking ball all over the field but should have been further ahead as Ryan uncharacteristically missed a couple of reasonably straight forward frees.
Cork needed another goal to get back into it and Nash obliged with a rocket of a 21 yard free to the roof of the net. Shortly afterwards the Cork goalkeeper made the long run up for the third time of the afternoon to strike a penalty but O’ Donovan (not for the last time as it would transpire) was the Clare hero, superbly deflecting the strike onto the crossbar. Clare as they have done all year when under the cosh tacked on another couple of scores. Cronin who struggled to get into the game drew the teams level finding the top left hand corner with a stunning strike from an improbable angle. Horgan appeared to have given Cork an even more unlikely win through a deft touch & strike before Gavin bizarrely afforded The Banner an opportunity to score the equaliser.
Nash launched puck out after puck out down on top of the dominant Clare half back line and amazingly never once tried an alternative, this is something Cork can surely improve on in the replay? Some of the short stick work from Cork was sloppy and I lost count of the number of times Cork went to control the sliothar with the hurley rather than snapping the ball directly in the paw, this is something you cannot do against Clare as their forwards pressurise defenders like no other team in the country. Cork were poor today and are unlikely to be as bad in three weeks time. Equally Clare cannot be as profligate in front of the posts again. The hurling season that keeps on giving, gives us one more big day out.