THAT was some Munster final.
Arriving in Thurles early, it was one of those days when it feels great to be part of the crowd.
This was a huge attendance again and there was a great craic around from long before throw-in. Clare and Cork, fantastic colour, both sets of supporters mingling together, enjoying the drinks, the singing, the bodhráns, the craic and the general good humour.
I even got a few crubeens from some Cork supporters, and delicious they were... no worries about diets from those lads.
Both counties believed his game was a 50/50 chance and were hoping it would be a cracker, just like the weather.
Well, it did not disappoint.
Clare started the game in a whirlwind fashion, winning most of the battles all over the field, high ball, low ball, fast ball or slow ball, it didn’t matter to Clare in the first 25 minutes. They were all over Cork.
Cork were at sixes and sevens all over the pitch and especially in their defence. John Conlan was causing all sorts of problems for Damian Cahalane, scoring points at will.
I think that he would have been better had he gone for goals on at least two occasions and taken on his man.
Cahalane allowed him far too much space. Going for goals would have paid off for Clare and would really have put Cork on the rack.
I know Clare got a very good team goal, scored by David Reidy and set up by Tony Kelly, but it the only thing Tony did in the first half. Peter Duggan flicked the ball to the net from a long free by Donal Tuohy so Clare were in the driving seat.
Cork made one of their shrewd moves at this stage, moving Colm Spillane on to Conlan, but more importantly, they were beginning to run at the Clare defence.
Then came the Luke Meade goal just before half-time — so instead of being eight or 10 points down, they went in only four behind having really not played at all. But, boy did they adjust themselves at half time.
Having been in tricky dressing rooms myself, I know there are lots of things you can do, like making switches, talking tactics and all that, but the greatest thing of all with players, no matter how good or bad the situation is, is if they have the desire to go and win the game when it really matters.
It’s where leaders stand up and want to deliver. I believe this is what happened in the Cork dressing room at half time.
The real leaders took it over, and in that second half a different Cork team took to the field — not in terms of personnel, but with a different attitude. Their intensity and aggression improved 100% especially in the Cork defence.
And with Sean O’Donoghue coming into the game with fire and determination, and Spillane completely dominating Conlan, and the half-back line of Christopher Joyce and Mark Coleman, together with Eoin Cadogan who was winning the dual with Peter Duggan, Cork were roaring.
Also, the switch of Daniel Kearney to midfield and Darragh Fitzgibbon to centre-forward caused all sorts of problems, especially for Conor Cleary.
With Harnedy joining Patrick Horgan in the full-forward line, Cork were doing to Clare what Clare were doing to Cork in the first half, dominating all over the pitch. Even with Shane Kingston and Conor Lehane quiet enough, they were really causing problems up top.
Horgan, who has to be on the shortlist for Hurler of the Year, got some great scores, both from frees and from play. He is one of the real leaders of this Cork team now. If there is a better striker of the ball in this country, I haven’t seen him.
Another man I think should be on that shortlist has to be Harnedy. This was a brilliant day for Harnedy, and for one of the smallest clubs in Cork, if not in Ireland, St Ita’s of Gortroe.
To be captain of the team is a unique achievement for himself and his club. I happened to meet two Gortroe men, Art Supple, and his good friend Oliver O’Loughlin, after the game. They were very proud men indeed and let me know they will remember this day for a long time.
It goes to show what can be achieved no matter what club you come from, big or small.
Great credit goes to John Meyler and his management team of Fraggy Murphy and Donal O’Mahony, as they have brought this team on from last year to retain the Munster title.
Now they are back where they were last year, back in an All-Ireland semi-final.
You have to say this was a hard-earned Munster Championship. Cork were up the only undefeated team, the same as last year.
Heartbreak for Clare again.
They were in a good position, but as I said on Friday, Cork’s pace was going to be a serious threat to them. Along with that, Cork’s great desire to win. They go away empty-handed again from Munster.
There can be no excuses. They were beaten by the better team. They have to regroup now and get ready for an All-Ireland quarter-final against Wexford I presume. That will not be easy.
Cork have four weeks to an All-Ireland semi-final and lots of things to improve on, which I’m sure they will do.
A brilliant Munster championship and brilliant champions again.