DARK clouds hover over Cork footballers, who have slipped to bottom of the Division 2 table following a third successive league defeat by Clare at Cusack Park, Ennis, yesterday.
The damage was done when Clare scored a couple of early goals against the strong wind on an afternoon battered by piercing showers, though the majority of the 1,182 crowd hardly noticed.
Clare rarely looked threatened by a Cork side whose brittle confidence began to erode even more after the nightmare start. The closest they got to their opponents was three points.
A fisted goal from Ian Maguire, from a long Luke Connolly delivery, five minutes from the end of regulation time, cut the lead to five points, 2-10 to 1-8. But Clare finished strongly in the remaining time, which included seven added-on minutes.
They even managed a third goal at the death to complete a miserable outing for the visitors.
Cork could hardly have made a worse start, conceding the first goal inside the opening minute and a second by the fifth minute.
Jamie Malone did all the hard work to give the home side a dream start and it’s conjecture whether his shot was heading for the net before David Tubridy made sure with his fist from practically the goal-line.
Cork’s defence was opened up again with influential midfielder and captain Gary Brennan spotting wing-back Conall Ó hAinifein tearing up on his right for the defender to finish with a super low shot into the bottom corner.
In between, Mattie Taylor kicked Cork’s first score with a point from a mark.
The experienced Jim Loughrey looked to be the fall guy as he was called ashore after 10 minutes with Liam O’Donovan sent into the action.
The visitors kept their hosts scoreless for a quarter of an hour following their twin-goal blast, but they made little impression themselves on the Clare rearguard, which was boosted by the usual withdrawal of hordes of players from further upfield.
A couple of points from Connolly and Stephen Sherlock cut the deficit to 2-0 to 0-3 after 18 minutes with Connolly unlucky with a ’45, after keeper Pierce de Loughrey caught it at crossbar height.
Clare came again, however, with another impressive scoring burst, outscoring Cork by 0-4 to 0-1 in a six-minute spell to restore their two-goal advantage.
Tubridy kicked a couple in quick succession before Stephen Cronin found the range from distance, but the Banner replied with a Dale Masterson score after keeper Mark White’s short re-start veered off track.
Yet there was much to admire in the manner in which Clare created the opportunity for wing-back Dean Ryan to complete the move for a 2-4 to 0-4 lead after 26 minutes.
Connolly and Sexton landed frees to offer Cork some encouragement, only for Clare to cancel them out with a Tubridy free and well-worked Conor Finucane score for 2-6 to 0-6 at the break.
A drenching shower helped neither side as Cork continued to struggle against massed ranks of Clare defenders, regularly losing possession in contact.
The home side were more than happy to sit back and hit Cork on the counter, with the wily Brennan and Tubridy exposing one of the many differences between the sides.
Cork scored only twice, via O’Donovan and Michael Hurley, before Maguire’s goal hinted at a revival — only for Kieran Malone to have the final say.
Scorers for Clare: D Tubridy 1-7 (0-2 f, 0-1 45), C Ó hAinifein and K Malone 1-0 each, C Finucane 0-2 (0-1 f), D Ryan, D Masterson, S Collins and J Malone 0-1 each.
Cork: I Maguire 1-0, L Connolly 0-3 (0-2 f), M Taylor 0-2, S Sherlock 0-2f, S Cronin, M Hurley, L O’Donovan 0-1 each.
CLARE: P de Loughrey; K Hartnett, C Brennan, G Kelly; D Ryan, A Fitzgerald, C Ó hAinifein; G Brennan, captain, D Bohannon; C O’Dea, J Malone, D Masterson; C Finucane, K Sexton, D Tubridy.
Subs: P Lillis for Bohannon and S Collins for Sexton, both half-time, K Malone for Lillis injured 53, A Sweeney for Masterson 64, C Murray for Finucane 70+5
CORK: M White (Clonakilty); K O’Donovan (Nemo Rangers), K Flahive (Douglas), C Dennehy (St Finbarr’s); J Loughrey (Mallow), S Cronin (Nemo Rangers), M Taylor (Mallow); I Maguire (St Finbarr’s), captain, R O’Toole (Eire Og); T Clancy (Fermoy), M Collins (Castlehaven), R Deane (Bantry Blues); S Sherlock (St Finbarr’s), L Connolly (Nemo Rangers), M Hurley (Castlehaven).
Subs: L O’Donovan (Clonakilty) for Loughrey 10, A Browne (Newmarket) for Cronin 47, P Walsh (Kanturk) for O’Donovan injured 48, P Kelleher (Kilmichael) for Clancy and D Gore (Kilmacabea) for Sherlock 60.
Referee: P Neilan (Roscommon).