THE only satisfaction Clare will take from this game is how they performed.
They threw off the shackles and got their big players into the game early. None more so that Shane O’Donnell in the first couple of minutes, testing the Cork full-back line at every opportunity, and unsettling that Cork defence by playing Tony Kelly very close to goal.
They targeted Cork’s inexperienced players, namely Niall O’Leary and Robert Downey, with John Conlan getting the better of Eoin Cadogan.
I was surprised that Cork did not make changes earlier by bringing in Stephen McDonnell and Christopher Joyce.
Above any ground in the country, I think Cusack Park in Ennis, is a place where you really need the old heads, with the Clare crowd baying for blood at every opportunity. Cork were very lucky that they were only five points down at half-time, as Clare hit some very poor wides.
Cork did introduce Damian Cahalane and McDonell for the second half, laying down the marker on Kelly before the ball was even thrown in.
This lifted Cork for the first 15 minutes. They were dominating Clare. Then we got as heavy a rain as I ever witnessed in a Munster championship match, and along with thunder and lightning, made the game very difficult.
However, Cork have got to understand that you have to play what is put in front of you because that is what Clare did. Clare were getting rid of the hurt that they have suffered over the last two weeks.
They were very angry and none more so than their joint manager Jerry O’Connor taking on Daniel Kearney. No matter how angry he was, that was a disgraceful thing to do to a player.
The Cork management kept their cool. I’d say other management teams would not have been as accommodating and Clare players matched that aggression but it was controlled.
Cork were very much reliant on Alan Cadogan up front, and of course Patrick Horgan, with his goals, but his radar was a bit off from frees. Conditions were not great for free-takers, although it didn’t seem to upset Peter Duggan, who was my man of the match. He got some spectacular points in this game.
I also thought Conor Cleary and Cathal Malone really defended very well. Cleary wrapping up Seamus Harnedy and Cathal Malone doing likewise to Kearney. Colm Galvin was on top in midfield too, as well as hitting fantastic long-range scores.
The real plus for Clare was the collective spirit of the team. It’s amazing what hurt and insults can do. They brought a bit of pride back into the jersey, and of course, they know the team they were playing caused them a lot of hurt over the years. We saw none of that against Tipperary or Limerick.
Had Limerick beaten Tipperary yesterday Cork would be out of the championship. Cork now will have a qualifying game either against Westmeath or Laois, and then the runners-up in Leinster. That is much better than having to play Tipperary in a Munster final.
The Rebels still have to sort out a lot of their problems and they have a few weeks to do that now.
I believe Conor Lehane should start as I don’t think he is as influential when he comes on as a sub. When Conor starts well in a game he is a real threat to any team.
I also think Declan Dalton would add a bit of strength and power to their forwards, as he is a physically imposing player, well able to win his own ball. That’ll be more important from here and this Cork team need to supplement their good skillful players.
The selectors will have to look at things and come up with the answers if they are serious about being All-Ireland contenders, a hard task ahead but that is where good management comes in.
They are still in it by the skin of their teeth, and the one team they can thank is Limerick, leaving off their key players for the game against Tipperary. I don’t think Limerick did the right thing here. You should play every game on its merits, and try your best to win at all times.
Sometimes things like that can come back to bite you. Even though they didn’t want to, they now have to face Tipperary in the Munster final. Interesting to see how that will work.
The game of the weekend was Kilkenny and Wexford. A lot of good games in Leinster this year, Dublin and Galway also a good game.
At least all teams went out to try and win here, but the Galway team are gone out of the Championship — a bit of a surprise to everyone I’d say, especially with one of their own plotting their downfall! I’d say Mattie Kenny was the only happy Galway man in Parnell Park.
But, as they say, it’s only starting now.
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