The stats show how Harnedy and Horgan are now on a different level

The stats show how Harnedy and Horgan are now on a different level
Patrick Horgan fires a point. Picture: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

That thudding war-cry, that unique chant which invariably lays siege to the opposition’s eardrums - and confidence - finally rang out around Thurles for the first time in the 54th minute of Sunday’s Munster final.

‘REBELS. REBELS. REBELS. REBELS.’ 

The huge Cork crowd savouring another Munster title on Sunday. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
The huge Cork crowd savouring another Munster title on Sunday. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Patrick Horgan had just scored his fourth point from play to put Cork ahead by 1-18 to 2-13. There was still over 15 minutes remaining but the Cork crowd had finally sensed that Cork had Clare – and the game – by the throat.

And they went for the jugular shortly afterwards with Seamus Harnedy’s goal. Cork were a completely different animal in the second half.

They were everything in that period which they weren’t in the first half but that fire and energy was ignited just before the break. And it was fitting that Harnedy lit the spark.

Clare were leading by eight points when Harnedy signalled to Anthony Nash that he wanted the puck-out. Nash drove it straight down the middle, Harnedy caught it over Patrick O’Connor’s head before releasing to Luke Meade who drove the sliotar past Donal Tuohy. 

When Mark Coleman nailed a brilliant sideline cut to reduce the deficit to four points, the momentum had already clearly begun to swing.

Cork regrouped and reshaped the team at half-time. 

Coleman, who had been detailed to mark Tony Kelly, was shifted from centre-back to his natural home at wing-back. Christopher Joyce went back centre-back and played more of a holding role, which gave Cork a better defensive shape. 

Darragh Fitzgibbon was moved to centre-forward. Harnedy went back into full-forward while Conor Lehane switched to the wing.

Harnedy almost had a goal inside two minutes and the tone was set. Fitzgibbon and Horgan rifled quick-fire points. Fitzgibbon had a goal chance which was nudged out for a 65, which Horgan nailed to level the game. 

And Cork converted four of their next five scoring chances before Harnedy bookended a glorious scoring sequence with his goal.

Harnedy was outstanding and was a deserved man-of-the-match. From 12 plays, he scored 1-4 from play, set up Meade’s goal, and was fouled for two converted frees. 

Harnedy’s leadership was immense but he was untouchable in the second half when nailing 1-3 (and almost scoring a second goal) from just seven plays in that period.

Seamus Harnedy goes clear to score his side's second goal. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie
Seamus Harnedy goes clear to score his side's second goal. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

Alongside him, Patrick Horgan also looked on a different level.

Horgan didn’t touch the ball until the 15th minute. He only had six possessions in the game but his stats were ridiculous from that possession; Horgan scored four points and was fouled for two converted frees.  Every touch resulted in a score.

John Conlon was that player in the first half. Of the nine direct balls Clare played into Conlon in that half, he won seven. From that possession, Conlon scored five points and was fouled for a converted free. 

He also had a goal chance saved by Nash. Damien Cahalane couldn’t handle Conlon. 

Cork shifted Colm Spillane on to Conlon but his first act was to foul the Clareman for a converted free. It looked at that stage that Cork couldn’t get any grip on Conlon but Spillane gradually did, especially in how he physically matched up. 

Colm Spillane deflects a high ball away from John Conlon of Clare. Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy
Colm Spillane deflects a high ball away from John Conlon of Clare. Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Conlon’s influence also waned once Joyce sat deeper and Cork’s work-rate went through the roof. 

Colm Galvin played three of those measured balls into Conlon in the first half but Galvin wasn’t the same force after the break. Cork completely contaminated that supply into Conlon. 

Of the eight balls Clare directly played into him, Conlon only won three, two of which he was fouled for. Clare eventually brought Conlon out to the half-forward line in the 63rd minute but they needed him out there earlier because any time he was in possession, the Clonlara man was making something happen.

Bill Cooper had another fine game. His possession stakes weren’t that high but his work-rate, tracking and energy levels were outstanding.

As well as scoring one point, Cooper gave the last pass for Harnedy’s goal and had another assist.

Daniel Kearney did well again too, making 12 plays, scoring two points, having a hand in two more, while he also started the move which led to Harnedy’s goal. 

Fitzgibbon also made an impact after the break with his pace and running power, scoring two points, forcing that 65 and winning two puckouts.

Much of Clare’s early dominance, and Cork’s struggles, had hinged on the Cork puckout. 

Clare won eight Cork puckouts in the first half, which was a factor in the low possession stakes of their forwards. 

Cork arrested that trend after the break but they also pushed up more on the Clare puckout to deny Donal Tuohy the short options he’d had in the first half.

Although Clare appeared to have dominated the first half, Cork were still always creating chances, and had only created one less scoring opportunity in that period (16-17). 

Clare’s superiority was even more impressive considering that two of their main shooters – Tony Kelly and Shane O’Donnell – weren’t in the game. Conlon was the key target but O’Donnell only made one play in that period while Kelly’s only significant possession of the half was to set up David Reidy’s goal.

Clare drifted in the second half. 

They didn’t play with the same conviction. Peter Duggan missed two frees he’d have expected to nail. 

Clare didn’t play with the same conviction but much of that had to do with how Cork drained the confidence from Clare’s play.

Clare lost their way and while their big guns remained silent, Cork’s artillery began to cause significant damage at the other end as the game progressed. 

Clare did end with three goals. 

They could have had three more goals in the second half but there was still always a sense that once Cork got a grip on Clare’s throat midway through the second half, the game was effectively over.

And the Cork supporters knew it too.

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