Christy O'Connor's analysis: Stats highlight the Cork hurlers' economy compared to wasteful Banner

Christy O'Connor's analysis: Stats highlight the Cork hurlers' economy compared to wasteful Banner
Anthony Nash of Cork celebrates after Clare's first half penalty goes over the bar. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Near the end of Sunday’s game, David Reidy came hunting for a Clare goal but Anthony Nash got his angles perfect and blocked the shot, knocking it out for a ’65.

Nash instantly jumped up off the deck. He punched the air before picking up the sliotar and firing it up into the sky, almost trying to sling it over the net and into the terrace with the Cork hordes behind him. 

The Cork crowd responded in a crescendo. When the final whistle blew shortly afterwards, they invaded the pitch like the old days, rekindling memories of a time when Cork owned Munster finals in Thurles.

It took the players an age to make their way through the throng to the presentation area. 

While they were still waiting for their captain Stephen McDonnell to make his way through, Kieran Kingston gathered his players around him in a huddle inside the stewards cordon. 

Kingston was clearly pointing to the huge Cork throng, who were in full voice. 

The Cork hurling public have waited too long for days like Sunday but Kingston seemed to be suggesting that, unlike 2014, and with bigger days in mind, it was time to give their people more to sing about this time around after a Munster final win.

The Cork players had clearly surfed that huge wave of momentum and euphoria because they fed off that energy from the crowd all afternoon. 

When Clare were two points down with time almost up, and with them hunting in the Cork square for a goal, Cork turned the ball over and Damien Cahalane took off on a solo run up the field. 

The space opened up and with the Cork crowd willing him on, Cahalane kept going before finally passing to Luke O’Farrell, who passed to Patrick Horgan, who slotted a point. 

Two more scores sealed the deal.

It was a strange kind of game. 

Cork always looked and felt in control yet Clare, who underperformed, generated enough chances to win the game. 

Clare missed a penalty, hit the crossbar, hit the post and had another goal chance saved, while the only goal opportunity Cork had, Cadogan nailed it.

Cadogan’s economy was supreme. 

From just nine plays, he scored 1-4 and was fouled for two converted frees. 

Conor Lehane and Seamus Harnedy, who were brilliant against Tipperary and Waterford, didn’t have the same impact but that has been the difference with Cork this summer – other players are always stepping up.

Horgan was only on the ball once in the first half but he found his mojo after the break, scoring two points from play, setting up another, and being fouled for a converted free. 

Lehane was clearly carrying an ankle injury but he was productive from limited possession. 

From eight plays, Lehane scored one point but was fouled for three converted frees.

Harnedy hit four wides but he scored two points and set up another.

Clare had a good deal of possession, especially in the first half, but they couldn’t get their shooters in the full-forward line on the ball enough. 

Much of the diagonal ball they played was too wide but it was also risky when the Thurles pitch was so springy and was kicking so hard off the turf. 

A number of those outside passes ended up over the sideline.

Clare also killed themselves in a six-minute spell in the second half when hitting four wides and dropping two shots short. 

To make matters worse, Cork mined two points from those ball which dropped into Nash’s hand.

Cork’s touch and hurling was sharper but the game was effectively decided on puckouts, especially on Cork’s short puckout. 

Clare’s tactic was to flood the half-back line with both wing-forwards but Cork mostly went short to try and bypass that steel fence.

Overall, Cork won the puckout statistic 39-28 but Clare gave Cork their short puckout too easily while they also allowed them travel to the ’45, which enabled Cork’s defenders to tailor their deliveries better. 

In total, Cork scored 0-7 off their own short puckouts. 

Clare seemed almost too caught up on that tactic because their half-forwards were also too deep to try and support the attack when Clare won possession back on the Cork puckout. 

Clare only really flowed when they threw off the shackles late on began to express themselves more.

Although they coughed up goal chances, Cork’s defenders played well, never allowing Clare’s attack to catch fire. 

Shane O’Donnell, Conor McGrath and Aaron Shanagher were restricted to a combined 17 plays but McGrath’s goal and a point, O’Donnell being fouled for the penalty, and another converted free, and a Shanagher score were the high points off that possession. 

From 12 plays, Tony Kelly scored three points and was fouled for a converted free but he also hit five wides from play.

Mark Coleman’s class in the second half, especially his two points, encapsulated the confidence and class of the new breed. 

That was really evident in the 29th minute when Coleman beautifully trapped a ball near the sideline before setting in motion Cork’s slickest and most fluid move of the match; Coleman to Colm Spillane, to Cahalane, to Chris Joyce, who passed to Darragh Fitzgibbon on the overlap. 

Fitzgibbon steamed through the centre before being fouled by Colm Galvin. 

For the first time of the afternoon, that thudding war-cry went up. ‘Rebels, Rebels, Rebels’.

The young breed have sparked a new vibe, a new optimism but Cork have the blend just right now. 

Horgan surpassed Christy Ring to become Cork’s all-time leading championship scorer. Just before the cup was presented, Cahalane and selector Diarmuid O’Sullivan wrapped each other up in a long embrace. 

The iconic former full-back was warmly acknowledging the current number 3, who had been more maligned than anyone else over the last three years. 

A decade on from Cork’s last glorious era, the next generation are coming. 

The baton has finally been passed on.

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