Cork v Clare: Rebels can secure McGrath Cup final place if they beat the Banner away

Win over Kerry puts John Cleary's side in pole position to make the preseason decider on Wednesday night against Tipp or Limerick
Cork v Clare: Rebels can secure McGrath Cup final place if they beat the Banner away

IMPRESSIVE: Brian O'Driscoll of Cork during the McGrath Cup Group A match between Cork and Kerry. Pic: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

SUNDAY, McGrath Cup: Clare v Cork, 1.30pm.

IT may not have been on Cork’s agenda initially, but they are on course for a third game in the competition, the final next Wednesday night against either Tipperary or Limerick who meet in Templetuohy tomorrow at 2pm.

For Cork to advance they only need to avoid losing by seven or more points against a Clare side, which lost to Kerry by 0-14 to 0-13 last weekend, Cork having opened with a resounding 5-11 to 0-14 victory over the Kingdom.

It leaves Cork on top of Group A on two points with a scoring difference of +12 with Kerry also on two points, but with a scoring difference of minus 11 with their schedule completed. Clare prop-up the table with no points and a scoring difference of minus one.

In Group B, it’s much tighter because Tipp and Limerick are level on two points apiece with the Shannonsiders having a slightly better scoring difference of +17 to +14 after both recorded big wins over Waterford.

It will be a much different challenge for John Cleary’s charges on a number of levels, chiefly because of the weather and the venue which will be in stark contrast to last week’s game at Páirc Uí Rinn.

Conditions were un-seasonally benign, temperatures way above the norm on a mild night with the pitch in an immaculate state and all combining for a fitter Cork to showcase their talents for the first game of 2023.

Cork slammed in five goals and wouldn’t have been flattered with a fist-full more as the outstanding Colm O’Callaghan led the way with an eye-catching 2-4 from play with captain Brian Hurley, Brian O’Driscoll and Chris Og Jones also finding the net.

It’s unlikely to be as open a game on this occasion because the weather is bound to impact with rain and wind forecasted on a pitch that won’t be as conducive which could make it a slog for all concerned.

HURLING DUTY

Cork used 26 players in all against Kerry but will still be without Cathail O’Mahony, who in on hurling duty with Ballygiblin in the All-Ireland junior final at Croker tomorrow, while Clonkilty’s Tom Clancy is on honeymoon.

Manager John Cleary will assess the fall-out from the many players involved with MTU Cork Campus and UCC in this week’s Sigerson Cup and balance the needs of defenders Sean Meehan, Rory Maguire, Maurice Shanley and Daniel O’Mahony, in particular.

It’s the first of three games against the Banner in McGrath Cup, division 2 of the league and the Munster championship quarter-final on April 9.

Clare started well against Kerry, scoring the opening four points due to their swashbuckling half-back line in which Jamie Malone stood out in the number 6 role and they managed to maintain that advantage to the break, when leading by 0-7 to 0-3.

Gradually, Kerry reeled in their opponents, who supplied nine scorers and also introduced 10 substitutes.

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