Cork hold on to see off Clare and reach All-Ireland hurling quarter-finals

Three goals crucial as Clare are seen off in Limerick
Cork hold on to see off Clare and reach All-Ireland hurling quarter-finals

GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Qualifier Round 2, LIT Gaelic Grounds, Limerick 24/7/2021

Cork 3-19 Clare 1-23

Thirteen-man Cork had goalkeeper Patrick Collins to thank for a superb late save to ensure that they advanced to the All-Ireland SHC quarter-finals with victory over Clare at the LIT Gaelic Grounds on Saturday evening.

Having looked to have clinched the win when a 66th-minute goal from sub Shane Barrett was followed by a Patrick Horgan point to make it 3-19 to 0-22, Cork were left hanging on as Clare corner-back Rory Hayes – freed up after a second yellow card for his marker, Jack O’Connor – pointed and then the Banner County won a penalty when Niall O’Leary fouled Tony Kelly. O’Leary had already been cautioned too and so he saw red as well, leaving Cork to face the final play two men down and two points up after Kelly’s penalty was converted.

Clare sensed blood and when the ball made its way to Kelly inside the 20m line, most present had already witnessed the net bulging in their mind’s eyes.

However, Collins, who had earlier made a superb save to cut out a Mark Rodgers ball across for Aron Shanager, stood up well to the shot and the whistle from referee John Keenan brough sweet relief.

It leaves Cork in Monday morning’s draw to face either Dublin or Tipperary, battle-hardened after a tough game but also with some work to do.

A ragged first half was nip and tuck for much of proceedings, with Kingston’s goal in injury time opening up the game’s biggest lead up to that stage, five points, cut slightly by a point from Clare’s Com Galvin on the whistle.

In the searing heat, both sides were guilty of sloppy errors and loose shooting, though Cork didn’t trail after Jack O’Connor’s goal put them 1-4 to 0-5 in front in the 17th minute. Prior to that, the teams had exchanged points with little in the way of inspiration. While Cork were without Damien Cahalane and Eoin Cadogan, both of whom had impressed against Limerick, they defended well, with Niall O’Leary moving to the half-back line to pick up Tony Kelly while Robert Downey was detailed with limiting the influence of Aron Shanagher close to goal.

Cork did look to forge goal opportunities from an early stage, with Conor Cleary – who shone at number 3 in the opening half – doing well to block a Patrick Horgan half-chance in the fifth minute while on 10 John Conlon did enough to put off Séamus Harnedy after his burst of pace gave him an avenue.

Kelly’s third free put Clare 0-4 to 0-3 in front in the wake of that, Horgan replying with his fourth point, a 65, before Banner wing-back David McInerney landed a booming effort from near his own 45 to make it 0-5 to 0-4.

Immediately after that, Cork hit the front. Luke Meade, industrious at midfield, picked out O’Connor, isolated close to goal with Rory Hayes, who he turned sharply before keeping his composure and producing a superb finish past Eibhear Qulligan.

Where Qulligan was restarting quickly up to then, now he took his time as Clare looked to slow any Cork momentum but they couldn’t reply straightaway as David Reidy shot wide – one of 10 for them in the first half.

Coming up to the water-break, O’Connor might have netted again after Horgan’s pass allowed him to drive goalward from a wide position but Quilligan saved well.

After Harnedy made it 1-5 to 0-5, Clare midfielder Cathal Malone had a point just before the water break and he landed another on the resumption before Kelly levelled with his first from play. However, he failed with a chance to put them ahead from a free and Cork pushed on with a free and a 65 from Horgan.

A nice Kingston point, created by the combination of Meade and Darragh Fitzgibbon at midfield, made it 1-9 to 0-9 on 32 and a second goal almost arrived as Jack O’Connor’s hard work saw him dispossess Hayes and lay the ball off to Harnedy, who was hooked by Diarmuid Ryan just as he was about to shoot.

However, the green flag was coming and it materialised after Malone’s third Clare point. When Harnedy’s nice pass set Kingston clear, he played a clever one-two with Horgan, whose deft flick back to the Douglas man allowed him to fire home.

Galvin’s point for Clare left four in it at the break and Clare had the momentum for much of the third quarter, with Kelly putting his stamp on the game with some incredible scores. Horgan’s points ensured Cork kept their noses ahead while O’Connor was unlucky to see another goal chance deflected just wide after he showed great pace again. By the water-break, Seán O’Donoghue had seen off two Clare attackers, with Mark Rodgers, an early sub for Ian Galvin, making way for Shane Golden.

Cork still led by two, 2-14 to 0-18, but, cheered on by their supporters, Clare were coming hard and Kelly’s 11th point cut the gap and sub Golden levelled before Diarmuid Ryan put them in front.

When Horgan missed a 65, Cork looked in trouble but they responded well as subs Barrett and Alan Connolly pointed to put them back in front. When Ryan Taylor tied, Harnedy and Horgan made it 2-18 to 0-22 and then, after a wonderful Downey block on a Gary Cooney goal chance, O’Donoghue and Harnedy combined to sent Barrett in for his goal.

That looked to be that – it wasn’t, but Cork are through.

Scorers for Cork: P Horgan 0-10 (0-4f, 0-3 65), S Kingston, S Barrett 1-1 each, J O’Connor 1-0, S Harnedy, D Fitzgibbon 0-2 each, L Meade, A Connolly, R O’Flynn 0-1 each.

Scorers for Clare: T Kelly 1-11 (1-0 penalty, 0-7f), C Malone 0-3, A McCarthy 0-2, S Golden, D McInerney, D Ryan, R Hayes, C Galvin, I Galvin 0-1 each.

CORK: P Collins; S O’Donoghue, R Downey, G Millerick; N O’Leary, M Coleman, T O’Mahony; D Fitzgibbon, L Meade; R O’Flynn, S Kingston, S Harnedy; J O’Connor, P Horgan, A Cadogan.

Subs: S Barrett for Cadogan (half-time), C Cahalane for O’Flynn (58), A Connolly for Kingston (60), T Deasy for Harnedy, B Cooper for Fitzgibbon (both 70).

CLARE: E Quilligan; R Hayes, C Cleary, P Flanagan; D Ryan, J Conlon, D McInerney; R Taylor, C Malone; D Reidy, C Galvin, T Kelly; A McCarthy, A Shanagher, I Galvin.

Subs: M Rodgers for I Galvin (28), J Browne for C Galvin (57), S Golden for Rodgers (52), G Cooney (65).

Referee: J Keenan (Wicklow).

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