THE CORK minor hurlers impressed in the second half against Clare on their way to a 1-24 to 2-13 win at Semple Stadium.
St Finbarr's Ben Cunningham was their top-scorer with 0-9, but they had a rock-solid base around the half-back line and midfield, the likes of Ben O'Connor, Eoin Downey, Alex Quirke and Brian Keating drove the Rebels into a semi-final against Limerick.
Due to the pandemic, the round-robin series of games is gone and the championship is now a straight knock-out, which meant bainisteoir Donal Óg Cusack was more than happy with the result.
“Obviously we all know what has been going on for the last number of months, but anytime you come to Thurles you do so with optimism and we are just delighted to have come through.”
Cork started well, but then after the water break, Clare were the better side. In the second half, the favourites really upped the gears after the water break, highlighting their importance this season.
“The water breaks are having a big impact on games, and sometimes they are working for you, but also they can have the opposite effect if you have momentum. They are having a huge impact, but on this occasion, I think it kind of balanced itself out.”
The subs more than played their part, Jack Leahy (Kiltha Óg) and William Buckley (St Finbarr's) shooting the lights out when introduced in the second half.
“It's a cliche but it really is a 20-man game now, we had a panel of 24 there today and it's safe to say that no team is going to finish with the team that started. We were delighted with the contribution of the subs, but that's also the expectation we have of them.
“It's a real positive that we are playing, I think we met the parents almost 12 months ago and we met them again last week and little did we think the first time we met them it would almost be a year later before we would play our first championship game.
“But everybody put in a huge effort during the lockdown, and I have no doubt the Clare lads did the same and were as grateful as we were to be able to come to Thurles to play. I know on a personal level I was absolutely grateful for that.
“With a lot of challenge games cancelled we will have learnt a lot from this game and will look at it during the week. The (Colin Walsh) goal was a big score for us as it was against the wind and it settled the lads and we can now look forward to facing Limerick in two weeks."