ONE wag said “it was daylight robbery under lights” as Cork pilfered the McGrath Cup right under the noses of Clare in Mallow on Saturday.
Few, if anyone, in the attendance of 691, who were hugely entertained throughout, would have disputed our friend’s succinct summation because Clare, certainly, didn’t deserve such a fate.
Yet, credit Cork for not giving up, particularly as they had missed a couple of goal-scoring opportunities before Stephen Sherlock struck at the death.
Clare must have sensed it was going to be their 13th McGrath Cup success, and their first since 2008, when they led by four points with just six minutes of normal time remaining.
Three points on the spin left them poised for a second successive win over Cork only to be caught by a sucker punch in the final minute of injury-time.
Cian Kiely started the revival with an impressive point from distance before fellow wing-back Padraig Clancy was denied by the underside of the crossbar after unleashing a thunderbolt.
Then, in the first minute of time added on, Sherlock’s goal attempt was deflected by an outstretched leg.
A pointed free seemed just academic, but Cork wouldn’t accept defeat.
Again, they attacked from the re-start and in something resembling a pinball machine, Sherlock got the last touch to score the winning goal from close range.
It was, indeed, a crazy end to a crazy game. Cork led by 10 points at one stage in the first-half only for Clare to cancel it out by scoring 2-4 without response either side of the break.
Cork delivered a couple of early blows to Clare’s chances, finding the net in less than a minute.
Mark Collins finished sweetly with the outside of his right boot after five minutes following a move initiated by Clancy and a penetrating run from Kevin Crowley.
New Clare keeper, Killian Roche, had to pick the ball from the back of his net a second time moments later after Sherlock cut in from the right and planted an unstoppable shot high into the far corner for a 2-3 to 0-2 lead.
Both inside lines carried a threat from the outset with Michael Hurley supplementing the Cathal Vaughan-Collins-Sherlock trio by firing over three points.
His first after 12 minutes was a beauty, featuring a spectacular ‘mark’ by the towering Daniel O’Callaghan in the middle of the pitch and such was Cork’s dominance that they enjoyed a 2-8 to 0-4 lead approaching the break.
Clare went 13 minutes without a score following Courtney’s fine point, but they received a timely boost, when his quickly taken free caught out the Cork defence for Keelan Sexton to bag a goal and reduce the deficit to seven points on the change of ends.
The break didn’t disrupt Clare’s momentum either because they were on level terms within 10 minutes.
New Cork keeper, Mark White, couldn’t deal with a dropping ball at his toes and Alan Sweeney prospered for a 38th minute goal.
Three points restored parity at 2-8 apiece after 45 minutes before Clare struck for a third goal seven minutes later as White was again caught by a dipping low ball, substitute Gearoid O’Brien credited with the goal.
Scorers for Cork: S Sherlock 2-3, 3f, M Collins 1-1, M Hurley 0-4, C Vaughan 0-3, 1f, D O’Callaghan and C Kiely 0-1 each
Scorers for Clare: K Sexton and G O’Brien 1-1 each, A Sweeney 1-0, C Finucane 0-5, 2f, E Courtney 0-3, C O’Connor 0-1’45, D Bohannon 0-1
CORK: M White (Clonakilty); S Ryan (St Finbarr’s), C Dorman (Bishopstown), M McSweeney (Newcestown); P Clancy (Fermoy), K Flahive (Douglas), C Kiely (Ballincollig); J O’Sullivan (Bishopstown), captain, D O’Callaghan (Clyda Rovers); S White (Clonakilty), K Crowley (Millstreet), M Hurley (Castlehaven); C Vaughan (Iveleary), M Collins (Castlehaven), S Sherlock (St Finbarr’s).
Subs: C Dorgan (Ballincollig) for Vaughan injured, 35, I Maguire (St Finbarr’s) for Dorman and J O’Rourke (Carbery Rangers) for Crowley 52, R Deane (Bantry Blues) for Collins 54, S Powter (Douglas) for O’Callaghan 55, D Quinn (St Finbarr’s) for S White 57
CLARE: K Roche; E O’Connor, C Brennan, G Kelly; T Hannan, A Fitzgerald, J Malone; S O’Donoghue, C O’Connor, captain; P Lillils, A Sweeney, K Malone; E Courtney, K Sexton, C Finucane.
Subs: E Collins for J Malone injured 7, D Bohannon for O’Donoghue, D Egan for K Malone, and G O’Brien for Hannan, half-time, M O’Leary for Sweeney 60, J Culliigan for Collins, 67
Referee: S Mulvihill (Kerry)