IF YOU take the game yesterday on halves then it was a draw and overall, it was probably what Cork deserved out of the game.
The first-half was far from vintage Rebels, but to their credit they rallied after the break and were a far better side.
Early on Clare dominated around the centre of the park and their half-back line was on top as well. No surprise then that one of their half-backs, Michael O’Malley was named as Man of the Match.
Seadna Morey and David McInerney were also in good form, but in the cold light of day, Cork could have come out on top. With only a point between the sides, Cork had a chance to level it but missed and the Banner hit seven unanswered points at the other end.
From there the Rebels were always chasing the game and it was always going to be a difficult task to get back level, not to mind win.
Cork did have a chance and Clare can thank their keeper for a magnificent save from Seamus Harnedy, one of those stops that lifts your side and knocks the wind out of your opponents.
But go back to before the ball was even thrown in and Cork were dealt a blow with both Conor Lehane and Alan Cadogan both unable to start.
These two would be a loss to any side and Cork certainly felt it yesterday.
No doubt, come the championship, manager John Meyler will be hoping these two are fit, along with a few others that were missing yesterday.
Mark Coleman and Damien Cahalane are on the way back and should be available shortly and will bolster the squad.
That said, you certainly couldn’t fault the defence overall yesterday, with Sean O’Donoghue and Eoin Cadogan putting in impressive displays. Tim O’Mahony took a bit of time to get into the game, but once he did had a solid display at centre-back and will be well able to slot in there should Mark Ellis be needed elsewhere.
One of the areas we were in trouble yesterday was midfield and will be one that Meyler and his fellow selectors will be looking at closely in the coming week. Darragh Fitzgibbon will slot back in and it really is a question of who’s going to partner him there come championship.
After their three games to date, that question is still very much up for debate and one that will have to get an answer to, sooner rather than later. Lorcán McLoughlin came on at half-time to play there yesterday and he certainly made a difference and may very well start there against Waterford next Sunday.
Another worry is up front as the Rebels don’t seem to be firing on all cylinders at the moment. Bar Pat Horgan no other forward scored more than a point yesterday, with the aforementioned getting 12 of Cork’s scores.
But it’s far from doom and gloom for Cork and the spirit and fight they showed in the second-half is what they need to carry into the tie with Waterford on Sunday and into the championship in a few months time.
They showed it against Kilkenny in their first game where from start to finish they hassled, harried and effectively bullied the Cats. That is what this side is capable of and is what will be needed on Sunday for what has become a must-win game.
But it’s not just the defence that have to do this and the two missing starters, Lehane and Alan Cadogan, are prime examples of how forwards are the first line of defence.
Their work-rate is unbelievable and they have never made it easy for any defender to clear his lines.
Harnedy is of a similar way, as is Bill Cooper, who a lot of the time doesn’t get the credit he deserves for his overall displays.
In the last two games, against Wexford and yesterday, Cork were a little bit unlucky not to get at least a draw out of them.
On another day they could have even got the two points and we could have been looking forward to the league play-offs at this stage.
That’s how tight the margins can be and there is very little between a lot the sides at the top and the old cliché, all on the day, comes to mind.
If you have been working on tactics in training all week and then two players can’t start the game then it has to affect you, no matter who comes in.
However, in both games, Cork went almost 20 minutes without scoring, in the first-half yesterday and second against Wexford.
That is something the Rebels are going to have to work on and improve on, but they don’t need me to tell them that.
Cork now go into next Sunday’s clash on two points, with Waterford on none.
But I wouldn’t be reading a lot into the league, remember the last time Cork were relegated we were just one puck of a ball from winning the All-Ireland final.
Yes it hasn’t been the best start to the year, but a good championship run will soon see that forgotten.