SATURDAY'S draw between Cork and Clare in the Allianz National Football League Division 2 clash at Páirc Uí Chaoimh was one of those strange results where both sides probably felt they should have won.
When Clare sharpshooter Keelan Sexton banged his penalty straight down the middle of Micheál Martin’s goal in the 58th-minute penalty to give Clare a precious three-point lead, they would have fancied themselves to see out what would have been a crucial away victory for the Banner in their push for promotion to Division 1.
Clare they did not score again until the 70th minute, however, when Mark McInerney pointed, by which time points from captain Brian Hurley and Mark Cronin, and a fortuitous goal from a Hurley free, had seen Cork go two points in front.
Now it was Cork who looked likely winners, but McInerney’s score was followed by a sublime effort from Daniel Walsh to equalise, and when Mark Cronin’s Hail Mary effort from way out at the death fell short, both sides had to be content to depart with a share of the spoils.
One feels that come the end of the league, this could be a lost point that both sets of managers will still be lamenting.
Clare manager Colm Collins started this fixture with nine of the players that started last summer’s resounding 3-22 to 1-11 defeat at the hands of Kerry in the Munster Championship.
The Banner have been in Division 2 since gaining promotion in 2016 and they probably feel it is now or never in terms of making the jump up to Division 1. With that in mind, it was an experienced side that travelled to Leeside intent on adding the Rebel scalp to their 1-13 to 0-7 win over Offaly.
With regards league fixtures both Cork and Clare have pulled the short straw this year. With eight teams in the division and seven rounds, some teams were going to have an advantage of four homes ties. Cork and Clare have only three games each at home and four away.
That fact alone made this an extremely important tie for Cork, and especially so with a daunting away trip to resurgent Derry up next. Keith Ricken certainly did not want to make that long trip north pointless.
Ricken and his managerial team will have been happy with a lot of what they saw on Saturday evening, but will they will undoubtedly be concerned that they went 14 minutes without registering a score at the end of the first half after Blake Murphy got his third score in the 26th minute, and Clare capitalised by kicking four in a row to give them a 0-9 to 0-6 half time lead.
Special mention has to go to Cork goalkeeper Martin, as his crucial save in first-half injury time from Sexton ensured that Cork were within a score at the break.
Cork chipped away at Clare’s lead in the second half, although they will probably be a bit disappointed to have raised only seven second-half white flags considering the strength of the breeze at their backs.
The key to Cork’s mini-comeback was that the Cork defence seriously put the shackles on Clare’s dangerous trio of Sexton, David Tubridy and Eoin Clearly in the second half. Indeed, Clare had two long spells in that half, between the 39th and 51st minutes, and also the 58th minute to the 70th minute, where they failed to register a score.
Predictably, Sean Powter and Brian Hurley were key performers for Cork on the night, but there were some extremely positive showings from some of the younger brigade too.
Blake Murphy started the game like a house on fire, kicking three first-half points between the eighth and the 26th minutes.
Another highlight from a Cork perspective was Fionn Herlihy getting his first score for the Cork seniors after only being on the pitch for about 20 seconds. And the Dohenys native repeated the trick eight minutes later as he kicked a superb 56th-minute equaliser.
These are the kinds of green shoots that Keith Ricken will be delighted to see as the Cork rebuild continues.