Cork pull clear of Clare in closing stages of U20 clash

Victory guarantees All-Ireland champions a place in Munster semi-finals
Cork pull clear of Clare in closing stages of U20 clash

Ben Cunningham of Cork gets away from Clare's John Conneally in the Munster U20HC clash at Sixmilebridge. Picture: Brendan Gleeson

Cork 1-19

Clare 1-17

Cork scored the last four points to come out on top in their Munster U20HC opener against Clare at O’Garney Park in Sixmilebridge on Tuesday night.

Having conceded the game’s first five points, the Rebels trailed by 0-9 to 0-5 at half-time but, while they hit the front for the first time after Diarmuid Healy’s 44th-minute goal, Clare replied through Shane Meehan and they led by 1-17 to 1-13 after Keith Smyth’s free in the 59th minute.

However, when the need was greatest, Cork – with five of last year’s All-Ireland-winning team starting along with Healy and Kevin Lyons from the successful minor team – responded. Ethan Lyons cut the gap with a huge point before Daniel Hogan was fouled for a free that Eoin O’Leary converted.

Hogan’s pass then set up sub Colin Walsh to put Cork ahead again in the 62nd minute and O’Leary made sure of things with another free after Jack Leahy’s progress was illegally halted.

It means that Clare are out and Cork are guaranteed a semi-final spot, with first place in the group up for grabs when Limerick come to Páirc Uí Rinn next Wednesday. The win seemed unlikely for long periods, though, even allowing for Clare’s first-half profligacy from play and dead balls.

Ben Cunningham was Cork’s only first-half scorer, four frees and a 65, while Conner Hegarty and Diarmuid Cahill impressed for the home side. The four-point interval deficit could have been worse but Cork set about eroding it on the resumption, with Brian Keating’s point making it 0-10 to 0-8 on 34 – a goal might have accrued after Jack Cahalane’s lovely pass – and then then the influential Brian O’Sullivan landed a sideline cut.

Clare responded and only a good Brian Saunderson save denied Meehan a goal on 38. Keith Smyth made it 0-12 to 0-10 but Cunningham replied and then Hogan’s run was the catalyst for Healy’s goal, a lovely doubled effort.

Cork's Brian Keating battled Adam Hogan of Clare for possession in the Munster U20 clash at Sixmilebridge. Picture: Brendan Gleeson
Cork's Brian Keating battled Adam Hogan of Clare for possession in the Munster U20 clash at Sixmilebridge. Picture: Brendan Gleeson

Cahalane put Cork two in front but a superb individual point from Clare’s Oisín O’Donnell was followed by Meehan’s goal after he had won the break from a puckout in midfield and charged at the Cork defence.

As time ticked down, Clare kept Cork at bay but a pair of brilliant O’Sullivan frees meant the deficit remained manageable and Cork’s strong finish saw them take the points.

Scorers for Cork: B Cunningham 0-8 (0-7f, 0-1 65), E O’Leary (0-3f), B O’Sullivan (0-1 sideline) 0-3 each, D Healy 1-0, B Keating 0-2, E Twomey, J Cahalane, C Walsh 0-1 each.

Clare: K Smyth 0-6 (0-5f), S Punch 0-4f, S Meehan 1-1, P Crotty 0-3, C Hegarty, D Cahill, O O’Donnell 0-1 each.

CORK: B Saunderson (Midleton); C Smyth (Midleton), K Lyons (Ballygarvan), L Horgan (Glen Rovers); E Downey (Glen Rovers), E Twomey (St Finbarr’s), C McCarthy (Sarsfields); M Mullins (Whitechurch), B O’Sullivan (Kanturk); D Healy (Lisgoold), B Keating (Ballincollig), D McSweeney (Blarney); J Cahalane (St Finbarr’s), B Cunningham (St Finbarr’s), D Hogan (Sarsfields).

Subs: C Walsh (Kanturk) for McSweeney (half-time), E O’Leary (Glen Rovers) for Cunningham (48), J Leahy (Dungourney) for Healy, D O’Sullivan (Ballinhassig) for McCarthy (both 58), M Howell (Douglas) for Downey (60).

CLARE: C Broderick; I McNamara, D Mullins, A Hogan; J Conneally, C Galvin, O Clune; C O’Meara, C Hegarty; C Murphy, P Crotty, S Punch; J Kirwan, S Meehan, D Cahill.

Subs: K Smyth for Punch (26, injured), O O’Donnell for Kirwan (36), K Hartigan for O’Meara (47), G Sheedy for Murphy (53), O Cahill for D Cahill (58).

Referee: C Doyle (Tipperary).

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