Since half-time in the final league game against Galway, Cork had gone backwards in this regard, having posted encouraging numbers since then, but on Saturday they resumed the impressive goal-searching. Aside from the three that were scored, Jack O’Connor was unlucky on two other occasions while Patrick Horgan and Shane Kingston might have netted, too.
Without the strikes, Cork would simply not have won and if they are to reach the semi-finals it’s likely that a similar return will be needed.
There are a few other words for it – positive or negative, depending on who you support – but it has been held against Cork in the recent past that they lack it and the fact that it is such a relatively young panel means that opportunities to develop that hard edge haven’t been plentiful.
Aside from his winning save, Patrick Collins showed good awareness and composure to slow down puckouts when needed, while there were a couple of instances of treatment being called for when Clare looked to be picking up a gallop. Fortuitously, those stoppages held to puncture their momentum.
During the league, the full-back position had been occupied by Damien Cahalane and Eoin Cadogan, while both had featured in the loss to Limerick – Cadogan at wing-back – and both had done well. Cork were denied their presence on Saturday and Robert Downey was drafted in at number three but did a superb job on Aron Shanagher, while Seán O’Donoghue saw off all-comers in the corner.
Niall O’Leary was detailed to mark Tony Kelly and had a good first half before Kelly started to dominate the game, as he can no matter who is on him. Ultimately, Cork can be pleased with their calls.